This page is a work in progress. While I endeavor to keep the information on this page as current as is reasonably possible, it isn't a high priority at this time and there are many services mentioned here which are dynamic in their offerings.
With that said, I will try to research the information on this page every couple of months or so and update it as necessary.
If you feel that you may have something important to add to this page, like a service that's useful to scambaiters which stands out from the crowd, or you notice some incorrect/obsolete information (or even bad advice), please feel free to contact me with your input.
I've received many e-mails from readers who want to get into the growing internet sport of scambaiting. Great. However, there are a handful of common sense basic rules that any scambaiter should follow:
1) Use a secure web browser!
My number 1 security suggestion:
Use Firefox rather than Internet Explorer.
Firefox is open source which means that security holes are patched much faster than they are in Internet Explorer. At any given time there are usually several known unpatched security holes in Internet Explorer.
Simply put, Mozilla's Firefox is the best and safest web browser available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.
The Firefox download is totally free. Click the button above to download it today.
Enjoy a better web experience and stay secure with Firefox.
This isn't an anti-Microsoft rant. I have absolutely nothing against Microsoft and its products but Firefox is a far more secure product than Internet Explorer.
2) Make certain that your computer is well protected against viruses. For computers running Windows, this means that you have good anti-virus software running on your computer at all times and that you keep the virus definitions up to date. This is a must for any MS Windows computer that's on the internet but it's particularly important for the stuff you'll be involved in.
3) Don't ever believe anything a scammer tells you unless you know it to be true. If the scammer tells you "here is my picture," you can bet it isn't. If on Tuesday the scammer tells you it's Tuesday, re-read the calendar. It's probably Thursday.
4) Don't ever, ever give the scammer any real personal information. This should be obvious. Any real personal information includes your real name, address (including the city you live in), place of employment, real bank account number, personal e-mail address, etc.
5) Don't ever go to meet a scammer, regardless of their location. While the majority of 419 scammers are little more than petty con artists, there have been many instances of muggings, kidnappings and murder of people who have gone to meet with 419 scammers. Just simply don't do it.
6) Don't ever directly involve any innocent third parties in you scambait. No matter how much you hate your boss, ex-spouse, etc., don't take on the identity of any real person and don't involve any real people as key characters in your scambait.
Finding 419 scammers to take your bait:
Don't have any 419 scam e-mails in your own e-mail box? No problem. Just setup a webmail account at any of the free webmail services available. It doesn't matter what name you use for this account as you'll only be using it as a catcher account, an e-mail box only to receive scam e-mails with. My personal favorites:
Gmail: In my opinion, Gmail is the best there is with many great features and more than 7GB of storage space. It's also one of the few free webmail services that conceal your real IP address. Visit http://gmail.google.com to sign up.
Yahoo! Mail: Another fine webmail provider, features unlimited storage (do you really need that much???). Simply visit http://mail.yahoo.com and sign up.
Global Mail Exchange: An e-mail service filled with great features. Still in beta, this impressive service has many very useful features that you won't find with many other free webmail services. Visit http://www.gmx.com or http://www.gmx.de and sign up.
There are dozens of others. The above mentioned are my own personal favorites.
Now that you have a catcher account, it's time to seed your new e-mail address around the internet where it can be harvested by eager 419 scammers. The most efficient way is to "sign" a few website guestbooks that 419 scammers frequent in their search for victims. Conveniently, many of the scammers who harvest e-mail addresses from these guestbooks leave their calling card. This makes it easy for baiters to find their favorite hotspots. Just click guestbook+mugu+2011 to do a Google search (or guestbook+mugu+2011 for a Yahoo! search which will give different but equally good results) for online guestbooks that are currently active and used by scammers to harvest e-mail addresses. Even better, you can put your catcher account e-mail address on Fonda's Guestbook for MasterB8rs, a guestbook that I have setup specifically for this purpose. This has become a very popular source of e-mail addresses for the scammers.
Sign a very small handful of these guestbooks (not too many or else you'll be absolutely overwhelmed with scam e-mails and other spam). Be sure to include your new catcher e-mail address. Leave pleasant comments in the comment section (remember, these are the guestbooks of the websites of innocent people). Within a few short hours you should begin to receive your first 419 scam e-mails.
A word of warning: Along with the 419 e-mails, you are sure to get some plain old spam, e-mails trying to sell you the usual crap like fake Viagra, Cialis, pecker enlargement pills, etc. While these e-mails are also scams, they're not the kind you're looking for. You'll also get quite a few phishing e-mails (which are also scams that you don't want), and in rare cases, an attachment containing a virus or a trojan horse. Don't click on any links or open any attachments in any of the e-mails you receive in your catcher account. But, of course, you already know this and your computer is well protected against this sort of thing. Right?
Many (if not all) of these scam e-mails will end up in the Spam / Bulk directory of your webmail account or e-mail client so don't forget to check that directory.
Developing your baiting persona:
While you're waiting for your first scammer to play with, you should set up one or more webmail accounts from which you will conduct your baiting. Personally, I like to assign nonsensical names to my baiting characters like Stu Pidass, Herbert Buttplugg, or even Bart Simpson but you can simply use any ordinary name. So now, you can set up another webmail account like one of my actual addresses - firstname.lastname@example.org. This will be your first baiting account. Simply take a scam e-mail from your catcher account and reply to it using your baiting account.
Playing your first scam bait:
I suggest that you treat your first one or two scam baits as practice sessions. Get the feel of how the scammers respond to your e-mails. You'll soon notice from their replies that they seem to follow some sort of script and they may seem to ignore the content of your e-mails to them. This is because most of them generally do operate from a script.
First thing you'll want to do as a scambaiter is to get them off their script. Try out odd requests with them. Refuse to continue with them until they've answered all of your questions to your satisfaction, even the silliest ones. Tell them really unbelieveably silly things about your character (you haven't been able to call them because you've been in the hospital undergoing a brain transplant). Get as outrageous as you like. See how silly you can get without losing them (you'll be surprised, guaranteed). Push the silliness to the limit and beyond. Always remember, there are hundreds of thousands of 419 scammers out there. Don't be afraid to lose one or two, or even a few dozen, to experimentation. There'll always be many more that are eager to play games with you.
Playing your first serious scam bait:
By serious, I mean you're prepared to hunker down and actually try to really inconvenience some scammers.
After you've gained some experience with this hobby, you'll figure out how to take total control of your scammer and make him (it's always a him) do the things that you want him to do. However, if you are just starting out, it's easiest if you simply go along with at least some of his stupid requests. This is where you may have to go beyond just setting up a phony e-mail account or two. Sooner or later your pet scammer may ask for your address, your bank account number, your telephone and fax numbers, want proof of identification, etc.
The first two are easy. You can just pull places and numbers out of your butt. Don't worry. They won't check to see if the false information you give them is valid.
The last two items brings us to the next section.
Going beyond the basics:
Of course, you certainly don't want to give the scammer your real telephone or fax numbers and you don't have to. There are many simple solutions.
eFax has a free service whereby you can signup for a free fax number. Numbers are available in the U.S., Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, and Austria. The scammers can then fax their phony documents to you 'till the cows come home. You will recieve these faxes in your e-mail box as attacments which require eFax's reader to view.
An account with K7.net will provide you with a Seattle-based telephone number. This service is completely free. Of course, you can't have a two-way conversation with your scammer using this service but your lad can leave you messages (and faxes), incurring hefty overseas call charges on his phone. You can have these messages and faxes forwarded to your e-mail address. It'll satisfy his request for your phone number for a very long time.
A similar service in the UK is Yac. Their free service is similar to the US based K7 and will get you a personal (non-geographic 070*) number which will be fairly expensive to for the scammer to call (that's a good thing). It will also take faxes and forward them to you through e-mail.
A great free call-forwarding service is available from uknumber.co.uk. They will issue you a UK-based number through which calls can be forwarded to just about any landline number and many mobile numbers throughout the world. Several different types of non-geographic numbers are available including 0870, 070, and the new 056 numbers. The 070xxx numbers are really the only ones we're interested in as they're by far the most costly to call which makes them great numbers to get your scammer to call you on. This service works great when you forwarded your calls to a VoIP number (covered later). If your baiting character happens to be based in the UK, be sure to try this free service.
One thing worth noting about these UK 070xxx numbers: The scammers use them extensively as well but, unless you're located in the UK, I advise you not to call them yourself, even using VoIP. The charge per minute can be staggering. If you need to (re)activate your 070xxx number by calling it, get a scammer to phone it rather than doing it yourself.
For more services similar to those listed above, see the list of links below.
Submitting "proof" of identification to them is another matter. Obviously you don't want to send anything real. Often, simply ignoring their request for proof of identification works amazingly well and I would suggest this.
If you're really inclined to actually send your scammer something and you are somewhat adept at using a photo manipulation program like Adobe Photoshop or The Gimp, you can whip up something that looks realistic like the "quick and dirty" identification card shown below.
Using a background from another fake ID, this simple gem took about 7 minutes to create in Adobe PhotoShop. Not exactly convincing stuff for most of us but more than enough to satisfy the average 419 scammer. Otherwise, you can give him (it's always a him) some silly excuse why you can't send your photo ID, or you can simply ignore his request entirely which works surprisingly well in most cases.
Speaking with your pet scammer on the telephone:
With using just the techniques and tools listed above, you can create some teriffic scambaits. Unfortunately, many 419 scammers are well aware of scambaiters and often become suspicious of "victims" who make repeated excuses for not communicating with them via the telephone.
One of the most powerful tools in the scambaiter's arsenal is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software for your computer.
One thing to note regarding VoIP: Unlike a regular telephone, making calls and receiving calls are two seperate services. This means that you don't need to lease a telephone number to place calls.
I've listed just a couple of the more popular VOIP services below. Most of the services listed below require some sort of monetary investment unless otherwise noted. All require that a microphone and free software be installed on your computer. I recommend that you invest in at least a cheap headset for this.
Skype (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux) - The best-known VOIP provider in this list. At this writing, Skype allows you to make inexpensive (about 2 cents/min.) calls to U.S. and Canadian numbers and to UK geographical numbers. Calls to other countries vary greatly but are still relatively inexpensive when compared with more conventional methods of telephony. Calls to Nigeria for example range from about 9 cents/min. for most landlines to more than 25 cents/min. for mobile phones. It's worth noting that the scammers virtually always use mobile phones.
For about US$60.00/year (or US$18.00/quarter) you can lease a telephone number from Skype which will enable you to receive calls on your computer.
I use Skype frequently with great success. It's software runs flawlessly on my Linux computers and the service is very reliable. Skype accepts major credit cards as well as PayPal.
For those who care, Skype uses a proprietary communication protocol and is not "SIP" compliant.
Yahoo! Voice (Windows XP/Vista, Mac OS X 10.4+) - Yahoo! Voice is a relatively new service that is used in conjunction with Yahoo! Instant Messenger. I've only experimented with it briefly but I've found that call quality is as good as both Skype and Gizmo. While I would have liked to have used Yahoo! Voice more than I have, it's not available for my operating system.
At this writing, the price of calls to West Africa is competitive with other services but calls to US, Canada, as well as to London numbers are dirt cheap at 1 cent/min. Call in numbers are very competitively priced at about $US30.00/year (or $US3.00/month) but only US, UK, and France numbers are currently available.
Yahoo! Voice accepts payment by credit card only.SIP
The above mentioned are the only three VoIP providers I've personally used but there are a few others listed below which are similar. In addition, most of the mainstream instant messaging services like AOL Instant Messenger, Microsoft Live Messenger, etc. now offer VoIP services at competitive rates.
As mentioned above, this page is a work in progress and will be added to and amended in the future. For now though, there should be plenty of information here to get you started.
Here is a list of links to tools and resources:
Skype - A great, non SIP compliant service (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)
Gizmo Project - SIP compliant (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)
Yahoo! Voice - SIP compliant (Windows, Mac OS X)
VoipBuster - SIP compliant (Windows only)
Pulver Communicator - SIP compliant (Windows only)
VoIPCheap - SIP compliant (Windows)
IPKall - Get a free US (Washington state) phone number which can be forwarded to your SIP client.
uknumber.co.uk - Get a free UK non-geographic number which can be forwarded to just about any other number.
Payphone Directory - A list of payphone numbers and locations in the U.S. and Canada.