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29 October 2014
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The time wasting hobby

Scam baiting and me

A Nottinghamshire man, Mike Potter, tells us why and how he wastes the time of the internet scammers.

Don't try this at home...

Please remember: Scammers are criminals with worldwide connections. We do not suggest that you try scam baiting.

I think scam baiting must be in my blood. From a very young age I was very interested in magic and conjuring tricks. I soon realised that it was all about how smooth and deceptive you could be. It fascinated me.

Later on in life someone told me to have a look at a certain website (http://www.scamorama.com/) that they thought was an hilarious read, which it was. I did lots of research and thought that I could do this.

If there is a word somewhere between hobbyist and online vigilante, then that's me.

I spend a lot of my spare hours on the web. There is a phrase often used in scam baiting communities that says "say goodbye to your free time".

World wide there are thousands of active scam baiters. It might sound like a lot but it's not when there are hundreds of thousands of scammers operating on the net.

BBC Radio Nottingham's John Holmes interviewed Nottinghamshire scam baiter Mike Potter and Graham Lambert from Notts County Council Trading Standards.
audio Listen to our interview about internet scams >
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Scam baiting

I have a whole box of tricks designed to waste the scammers' time whilst he still believes that I am going to pay him a lot of money.

I have many false email address and identities I use whilst conning the con artists.

A little social engineering goes a long way.

Why do I do this? I tried needlework once, but couldn't see the point!

This is not a victimless crime, there are reports of billions of pounds being stolen in internet related scams worldwide with many victims too embarrassed to report the fact.

The scammers

Many scammers hide behind free and disposable e-mail addresses sitting in internet cafes on the other side of the globe.

They live in a world of smoke and mirrors. It is very difficult for any authority to do anything to eliminate the problem without treading on the feet of genuine internet users.

Being a thorn in their side not only wastes their time, but must make them wonder if a genuine victim is just having a joke.

It's hard to define what a success means to me, but I have succeeded in wasting hours and hours of scammers' time handwriting out meaningless forms with meaningless questions.

After 17 'normal questions' I always seem to ask question 18: "Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?" I get some interesting replies.

Hidden identities

I spent a lot of time researching before I ever started. Making sure that I only used e-mail systems that could only be traced back to me with subpoena on Mr Miro$oft and my own Internet Service Provider.

If a criminal wants to do that for wasting his time while he has been trying to defraud me for £10,000 at the same time, I say good luck to him. I never reveal any personal information. Mirrors and glass... two can play that game.

Scam spotting

My grandma always told me that if it looks like a turkey, walks like a turkey, and sounds like a turkey, then it's probably a turkey. I say, if it looks too good to be true it probably is.

The top scams depends on the demographics. There is a scam for everyone out there folks. I'll give you four. I would say that the most believable scams for most age groups are, in no order:-

  • Romance/ Date/ Love Scams
  • Cheque scams (which includes overpayment for goods and services, and part time jobs collecting payments)
  • Lottery Scams
  • Phishing fraud  (which by my definition isn't a scam, but identity theft).

Stopping e-junk

Once you've started receiving these scam letters you can't stop them altogether. The chances are that you entered your e-mail address on a website that is visible to the world and his wife. Try an internet search on your own e-mail address and see what you find; if you can see it then so can the rest of the planet.

Don't try this at home

Having read this, it may seem very tempting to reply to one of these scam letters to see just what happens. Your best friend is the button on your computer that is marked "delete", use it often.

I have spent a lot of time researching "scam baiting" and taken a lot of precautions to make sure I cannot be traced as I realise that I am dealing with criminals with world wide connections.

Scam week

BBC Radio Nottingham's John Holmes has been discussing scams all week (30 October - 3 November) with various experts.

More information

If you would like a 'scams information pack'...

Contact the BBC Radio Nottingham Actionline on 0115 934 8484 or email: helpdesk@nottinghamcvs.co.uk
last updated: 03/11/06
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