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Getting started: setting up a bogus email account
The first thing you need to do is to set up a bogus email account for you to use for the purposes of scambusting. You can then start to attract scam emails to this email address, and use the email account for your correspondence with the scammers.
Use a web-based email service, such as Hotmail or Yahoo. Obviously, you do not want the scammers to know who you are, so as well as using a bogus name in the email address that you choose, set up the account using completely false details too: give a false name, a false address, etc.
Attracting scam emails to your email account
If, like most people, you already receive scam emails on a regular basis, you will not have to do this. But if you are very careful about who you give your personal email address out to, you may be one of the lucky few whose inbox is not filled with scam emails and assorted junk day after day.
Attracting scam emails is easy. Use a search engine such as Google to search the internet for websites containing the words “guestbook” and “mugu”. “Mugu” is a slang term (translating roughly as “fool”) used by 419 scammers to describe their victims. Such a search will bring back a list of website guestbooks that have entries in them containing the word “mugu”. This usually means that scammers are harvesting email addresses from this guestbook and sending scam emails to them.
Visit five or six of these guestbooks and post an entry, giving your bogus email address. While it doesn’t really matter what you put in your entry, writing something like “Successful business person seeks foreign investment opportunity” is bound to elicit some scam emails in response.
You can now sit back and wait for the scam emails to start arriving in the inbox of your bogus email account. It shouldn’t take long. Give it a few days and you should have a selection of scam emails to start responding to.
Responding to a scammer
Once you have set up your bogus email account and you have received a few scam emails, you can start responding to them. Not every scammer will take the bait, so it’s probably worth responding to two or three initially, and moving forward with the one that looks the most promising.
Here are a few hints and tips that might help you:
- Do not give away any personal information whatsoever. Make up your name, your address, your occupation... make up everything.
- Scammers generally ask for your personal telephone number. I prefer not to talk to the scammers on the phone: doing everything by email means that they don’t know your phone number, and from my point of view, it also means that I can post all of our correspondence on the web. If you don’t want to talk to a scammer, either tell them that you don’t have a phone, or that you do have one but it’s out of order. Alternatively, come up with some other excuse.
- Scammers always ask for your bank account details. Make them up. Make up the name and address of the bank and the bank account name, number and sort code. They never check.
- There is quite an art to delaying things and irritating scammers to such an extent that they get annoyed, but not to the extent that they stop corresponding with you. Start your correspondence in a serious manner. Once you have gained their confidence, you can generally start veering off into the realms of the ridiculous without losing them.
- There is much fun to be had in irritating the scammers. Misunderstand them. Play stupid. Be rude to them. Ask for constant clarification. If they send you a form to fill in, tell them you didn’t receive it, then once they have resent it, ask them for step-by-step instructions on how to fill it in. Then fill it in incorrectly and send it back to them.
- Scammers often ask for identification, such as a copy of a passport or driving licence. If you are handy with a graphics package, forge one and send it to them: it helps to gain their trust. If not, simply refuse to send them any ID for reasons of security.
- The most fun part of the scambusts comes for me when the scammers attempt to collect money they think you have transferred to them, or when they turn up at an airport to meet you, only to be disappointed. Arrange these happenings with care and you will enjoy the scammers’ reactions. If you play it carefully, and come up with decent excuses, you can often persuade a scammer to go back time and time again to try and collect money or attempt to meet you. It’s fun watching their frustration grow.
- The scammers will send you a wide range of forged documents. If you are handy with a graphics package, forgeries of your own are a great way of making the scammers believe what you are telling them. If you tell a scammer that you have transferred money to them, a forged payment slip is often enough to make them return again and again to try and collect the money. But you don’t have to forge anything to make a scammer believe you; if they demand that you send them a copy of a payment slip, simply tell them that your scanner is broken.
- Click here to access blank Western Union and MoneyGram receipts that you can use yourself.
Although scambusting can be good fun, there are some things that you should not do under any circumstances:
- Do not give any personal information to a scammer; make it all up. These are not pleasant people, and although it is extremely unlikely that they would decide to fly over to your country and come after you for wasting their time, it is not worth taking the chance. Protect your true identity at all times.
- Do not give your real bank account details to a scammer; make it up.
- Do not travel to meet a scammer.
- Do not do anything that you feel uncomfortable with. Just because a scammer asks you to do something, you do not have to do it. Always remain in control of your correspondence, and feel free to break it off at any time.
- Do not send a scammer any money.
- Do not believe anything a scammer tells you; it is all a lie. A common tactic is for a scammer to tell you that their family has been involved in a car crash, or some other similar incident. Do not believe it, and do not feel sorry for them; none of it is true.
If you do decide to try scambusting yourself, be careful, but enjoy it. It can be very rewarding. If you do try it out, why not let us know how you’ve got on?
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