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SCARS|RSN™ Guide: Scam Baiting – Is A Waste Of Time!
Scambaiting Is A Form Of Internet Vigilantism!
It is where the anti-scam vigilante poses as a potential victim to the scammer in order to waste their time and resources, using their own lies and deception – acting just like a scammer themselves.
Why Do People Scam Bait?
Let’s start with the basic problem. Victims want to regain control.
When a person is scammed, especially a romance scam, they lose control. The scammer was in control and when the victim realizes this it is a profound shock.
Every Victim Will Feel Betrayed & Powerless!
Naturally, the victim wants to assert some control over their life and potentially over the scammers by taking action. Any action!
This manifests itself in one of three modes (based upon our experience):
- Avoidance – they want to run away and forget the scam ever happened
- Rage – they are angry and they want to hurt the scammer
- Common Cause – they want to help other victims avoid this fate
Victims who give in to this simply want to hide and forget about the scam and the scammer. It is natural to want to avoid a painful experience and the scammers know this. The scammers understand that most victims will never report the crime, never share their experience, never help anyone avoid the same fate. They just don’t want to talk about it, think about it, and pretend it never happened. Unfortunately, this only helps scammers get stronger. Scammers want you to hide in a hole and never expose their crimes or help anyone else.
RAGE & ANGER
Many victims are so traumatized by the scam that they become trapped in the anger part of the grief cycle. Unfortunately, anger shuts down much of your higher intellectual functions, so they react rather than thinking things through. These victims lash out at anyone that offers a direction that does not involve revenge and retribution. They completely fail to understand their own limitations or how to support others to take effective action. In many cases, they will mistakenly believe that they are now instant experts in this type of global crime, or they follow other angry victims – but all this does is delay their own emotional recovery. Many of these will turn to attack legitimate organizations that actually are improving the situation – they think “after all what good is anyone since they didn’t prevent them from being scammed?” They also turn to Scam Baiting because it feels good, even though it causes harm in its own way.
This is where the victim largely understands the reality of the global curse that is online scamming and looks for any way they can help. Unfortunately, there are so many angry victims and incompetent anti-scam groups that these victims frequently lose their way and follow bad advice in many cases. They are lead to many useless and wasted approaches, believing that they are useful and productive, when in fact they are the opposite. Urban legends and just wrong information floods through the so-called anti-scam amateur communities, Even self-styled “professionals” scam bait with hundreds of reasons why they think it is justified: it educates, it deters, it wastes scammers time, it exposes them. None of these are really true.
In Our SCARS|RSN Scammer Urban Legends Series we talk about many of these wrong-headed half-truths and just dumb ideas. Be sure to read them to help yourself better understand the world of scamming.
Let’s Examine What Scam Baiting Really Is?
Scam baiting is a form of Internet Vigilantism, where the vigilante poses as a potential victim to the scammer in order to waste their time and resources, gather information that they think will be of use to authorities, and publicly expose the scammer. It is primarily used to thwart scams and is done out of a misguided sense of civic duty, as a form of amusement, or both. However, some scambaiting is more racism than activism.
Scambaiters claim that they document scammers tools and methods, warn potential victims, provide education, or take down fake scammer profiles or websites.
Scam baiting is not the same as an intervention. Intervention helps prospect victims understand their risks and helps pull them away from scammers. Scam baiting is also not the same as simply getting hard data about the scammer.
Disclaimer: we are presenting this to help you understand what scam-bating is, not how you should do it. If you keep reading we will present why it is a failure, counterproductive, and in fact harmful.
By the way, it can be spelled as: Scambaiting, Scam-Bating, or Scam Baiting – your choice!
A typical scam baiter will provide themselves with the following – usually because they want to hide their true identity, though many just don’t care and use their real identities anyway.
- Throw-away Gmail or other email address
- Fake Social Media profile (other than their real profile)
- Fake dating website profile
- Either a “burner” or Google phone number
In effect, they are doing exactly what scammers do!
Beginning To Bait:
A Scam bait is initiated very simply:
- By answering a scam email. The “baiter” then pretends to be receptive to the “story” or “hook” that the scammer is using.
- Accepting an unknown stranger’s friend or connection request from their fake profile.
- Contacting probable scammers on a dating website.
The Objectives Of Scam Baiting Are:
- Keep the contact going as long as possible, thus costing the scammer time and energy – in effect keeping them away from other victims
- Gather as much information as possible, so that the scammer can be personally identified and publicly exposed
- Ensure the scams, and any names used, are easily found by search engine spiders, as a preventive strategy
A popular method to accomplish the first objective is to ask the scammer to fill out made-up questionnaires, which is very time-consuming, or go on other useless quests. The idea is that when a scammer is preoccupied with a scam baiter who has no intention of falling victim to the scam and that it prevents the scammer in question from conning genuine victims out of their money. Activists may bait scammers into taking long trips, encourage the use of poorly-made props, or teach English-language idioms that surreptitiously throw doubt upon future scam attempts.
Amusements that the baiter may gain from the interaction include fooling the scammer into falling for claims just as ludicrous as the ones of the scammer or being publicly humiliated through a live stream (or recorded video) of a scam session taking place.
Baiters will often use joke names or references to Western popular culture which, while obviously ludicrous to a native or fluent local speaker, will go unnoticed by the scammer. Similarly, baiters may introduce characters and even plot-lines from movies or television shows for comedic effect. It has also been known for the scammers themselves to adopt fake names that in their native culture would seem equally ludicrous. This reflects Western scam baiters using names from popular culture; in contrast, Westerners would probably be unlikely to identify names that would be familiar with Nigerian or other West African popular culture.
Think About This For A Moment!
Scam Baiting is viewed by many victims as a sport! A past-time.
It serves to fill the void in their lives created by the discovery of the scam and the disappearance of the relationship. For most, this becomes a cause, an obsession, which is every bit as unhealthy as the scam was itself.
No psychologist will tell you that seeking revenge or retribution is healthy following a trauma. Yet baiters ignore professional advice and just continue down yet another rabbit hole.
How Is It Right To Become What The Scammers Are?
If you Scam Bait YOU ARE A SCAMMER! Regardless of your intentions, it is a crime to engage in online fraud. And that is exactly what scam baiting is.
Scam Baiting is done by people that are still trapped in the anger after a Romance Scam or are mislead into believing that it is morally ok to do what scammers do back at them.
Scam baiting is popular with victims, especially men. It relieves their anger and provides them with an outlet for their feelings about the scammer that robbed (raped) them of their emotional connection and the positive feelings that came from the fake relationship.
Of course, so is using a baseball bat against other drivers in the road. Except we call that Road Rage. So maybe we should call Scam Baiting “Scam Rage” because that is what it really is.
Holding On To The Anger
One of the great challenges for victims is to let go of the anger, rage, and hatred.
Some amateur anti-scam groups delight in focusing this rage and anger into aggression against scammers, and scam baiting is a form of that. These groups are what the real anti-scam professionals call “Anti-Scam Hate Groups” As you can imagine, these are not a healthy place for victims to recover. You can easily identify these groups because they are very open of their hatred for scammers and anyone else that goes against their mistaken beliefs.
However, after a scam, it is natural that any victim will be angry about what was done to them. Romance scams especially are a form of rape – a psychological violation that causes profound emotional wounds that take significant time to heal. Every victim should seek competent support after a scam. That can include a registered online crime victims’ assistance and support group (such as SCARS|RSN) or professional counseling or therapy. But you should never put your emotional health in the hands of people who have no idea what they are doing!
The fact is that Scambaiting, like any form of vigilantism, brings a whole host of problems with it. You may think it feels good to play with scammers – get your revenge, but that is a knife that cuts both ways.
So What Does Scambaiting Really Do?
Scam baiting serves NO legitimate purpose.
However, engaging a scammer to get the details of the scammer that scammed you so that you can make a proper report is fully justified. Getting “hard-data” does matter. What they write is not important. Get their details – that is what matters and only what matters!
What Is Hard Data?
- Real Names of individuals involved
- Real online profiles of the real person
- Photos of the real scammer
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses (they may be disposable, but scammers use email addresses over and over)
- Even fake profile links (because scammers sometimes repurpose them in the future)
Forget about the dialog, the messages, fake documents – none of that really matters – it will not help put a scammer on a watch list.
Other than these – all scam baiting does is TEACH SCAMMERS TO BE BETTER AT THEIR JOB!
Scambaiters Are Making Better Scammers!
Forgetting the victim’s emotional damage caused by scam baiting for a moment, here is the real problem. Scam Baiting teaches scammers to be better scammers!
Every time they learn that a victim has seen through their scam, it tells them things about how they failed. Scammers are fundamentally salespeople and actors, and the more times you make a sales pitch, or the more times you act on stage, the better you get. Same with scamming.
Every time you confront a scammer or bait them, they are learning. Because these scammers work in organizations and gangs, it means that what one learns, they all learn eventually. They use their feedback and knowledge that they gain from interaction to improve their pitch and process.
Scam baiters let their egos control them in this process – they believe they are in complete control. In some cases, they will be. However, scammers work in teams – the days of individual scammers sitting on a dirty floor are over. They understand process improvement techniques.
Over the last two decades, we have seen the skills and efficiency of scammers improve dramatically. We have also seen them organize themselves into larger and larger organizations. This is survival for them, larger groups and working in teams means more resources and better training. That means more effective scamming – more money for the same or less effort.
All you have to do is think about this logically and you will see that this is true. Scam Baiting is really only satisfying your own anger while making it harder for everyone else.
STOP SCAM BAITING NOW
Focus your attention on yourself and other victims!
Any so-called anti-scam group that promotes “Scam Baiting” is engaging in the same tactics that scammers use. They throw away the moral high-ground when lowering themselves to the same level as scammers. This is both a question of ethics and simple honesty. Instead, it is fueled by rage and anger – the desire for revenge, including the deluded belief that it is fun and makes any difference at all.
Don’t Play With Your Scammers!
The ONLY thing you have done is make better scammers!
Thanks to scam baiters, over the last 5 years the professionalism of scammers has gone through the roof. Baiters have done as much to train scammers as the scammer’s professional scriptwriters have.
Why Are People Still Scam Baiting?
Because it feeds their rage against scammers, or fuels their warped sense of justice – scam baiters continue. This is one of those urban legends that never dies and that new victims believe makes sense, yet it doesn’t. Almost every month a new amateur anti-scam group forms on social media to “go after the scammers” and scam baiting is one of the techniques they get behind.
Scam Baiting serves as training for scammers. These are not lazy individuals, they work in criminal organizations that have people that analyze why the gang members fail. They look over the transcripts of your scam bait sessions to see where the scammer gave it away. They use everything they learn – that you teach them – to improve and pass that knowledge to other members of their large gangs. Over the years, we have seen an incredible explosion in the skill and professionalism of scammers. It is no exaggeration to say that the vast expansion of Scam Baiting is very much responsible for this.
The best practice is leaving the scammer in the dark about what they did or did not do, but just cutting the connection.
- Never confront them
- Never admit that you know it is a scam
- Never share anything more
- Just disconnect and report the scammer here on this website or on www.Anyscam.com or any of the hundred other entry points for the SCARS Network
- Then BLOCK them – have no contact with that scammer or other strangers
End Of Story – Goodbye Scammer! No Wiser, No More Knowledgeable, No More Skilled.
Ethics & Ethical Behavior
Obviously scamming is criminal behavior. But technically so is scam baiting, since it engages in fraud online. More importantly, though is the question of ethics.
How can anyone claim to be ethically superior to scammers when they follow and mimic what scammers do? They can’t.
The Society of Citizens Against Romance Scams [SCARS] is the world’s leading anti-scam avoidance education and victims’ assistance & support organization. SCARS maintains a clear set of ethical standards that apply to all forms of anti-scam activities, from countermeasures to education, to victims support. Additionally, as a partner of the United States government – specifically, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice on online crime victims’ issues ethics play a large role in creating real change.
Being a vigilante running amok has done nothing to reduce online fraud during the 28 years that the SCARS/RSN Team has been tracking this plague.
SCARS Maintains A Strict Code Of Conduct For Itself And Those That They Accept As Members
To learn more about the SCARS Ethical Code of Conduct Click Here »
In Addition To The SCARS Code of Conduct – SCARS is a member of NOVA and Conforms to the NOVA CODE of PROFESSIONAL ETHICS for VICTIM ASSISTANCE PROVIDERS – As defined by the National Organization for Victim Assistance. This Code is added and supplemental to the SCARS Code of Conduct by reference.
Unfortunately, not all anti-scam groups abide by that Code of Conduct (or any code of conduct or ethical standards) and engage in behaviors or actions that are not acceptable to the Society. As is clearly stated on the SCARS website, SCARS reserves the right to revoke membership for violations of the Code of Conduct, or other standards that have been established. SCARS also denies membership to anyone that engages in unethical behavior, regardless of their intentions.
Behaviors that are considered unacceptable, and are justification for either denying membership or revoking membership include:
- Defamatory Statements or Hostile Behavior to the Society, its Members, and Scam Victims
- Aggressive Scam Baiting or other activity that cooperates with or aids in the training of scammers
- Unethical posting of suspected scammers or other individuals improperly – there is a defined standard for this ethical behavior
- Misrepresentation of their membership in SCARS
- Unlawful crime victims’ support activities
These are a few of the reasons that SCARS developed these ethical standards.
It is reasons like these that you should exercise great care with Non-SCARS Members – individuals, groups, or organizations.
Here Is Another View:
Here is a post by “Even Steven” we are reprinting – that partly exemplifies the ethical problems with Scam Baiting – if you do evil you become evil.
Scam baiting – good or evil?
Scambaiting is the practice of harassing scammers. Most often this occurs with 419 scams- basically the baiter responds to a 419 letter and make it seem like they are interested in getting involved. Then they convince the scammer to do any number of things from re-enacting the dead parrot sketch on video to traveling thousands of miles. The results are then posted on the internet for the amusement of others.
The baiters justify this by saying they are wasting the scammer’s time and resources, keeping them from finding real victims. They also do work hunting down fake bank accounts, publicizing scams, etc. Baiters point out that 419 scammers are bad people who are looking to rob others, and have often esculated things to the point of kidnapping and murder. And they are out of the reach of any law. It’s only fair to do what you can to make their criminal work harder.
I was recently introduced to this bait, where a Nigerian scammer was convinced to undertake a fairly epic journey deep into Chad. Chad is currently pretty war torn, and the baiter directed this guy towards Darfur, stringing him along for months. It got pretty elaborate – there may have been injuries. Surely the guy really did run out of money and find himself in a bad spot at some point.
And as I was reading, it started to break my heart a bit. I worked right on the Nigerian border for a while, and the pictures of scammers I’ve seen could as easily be pictures of my friends. Yes, it is bad to scam. Yes, these guys are thieves. But they are also sons and fathers with no prospects. None. You can’t get a job out there. You can’t make an honest living. People live off of food they grow themselves, build their own houses out of mud, and hope the rains don’t fail.
And now they are being told that they might make enough not only to live well, but to get their family out of poverty (and given their culture they really would use some of that money to help their family.) Now stealing isn’t a way to do this. But they started the scam, and now they think they are going to basically win the lottery. Of course they are going to do whatever they can to get it. Of course they are going to invest whatever they have – and the resources of their families – to get it.
And to make them take funny pictures – well that is fair. To convince them to travel to a war zone, where they really could get hurt or killed, is too far. I feel like the baiters are taking advantage of these guy’s dreams and desperation.
So what do you think? Is scambaiting fun and useful, or cruel and crude? How far is too far?
This came from here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=485989
We want to thank all of the Scam Baiters out there! Congratulations, you continue to screw it up for people that actually can do something about scammers!
So thanks to scambaiters, scammers have learned how to:
- Proactively block scam hunters – they have a blacklist too
- Hide their information – about, timeline, friends, etc.
- Be more careful in the content they post on their fake profiles
- Create many many more fake profiles than before
- Use or steal more random people’s photos
- Hide the people they are currently scamming
- Move to new apps that offer no protections
Scam Baiting Does Nothing Except Feed Your Need For Revenge
Baiters are mostly “scam junkies” getting off on messing with scammers out of their own anger. But in the process are creating a better cockroach that is harder to kill.
Remember The War On Drugs? Look At The Cartels Now! Same Thing
Scambaiters are not solving anything. They are not slowing them down. They are also not letting themselves move on. They are staying glued to the environment that led to them being scammed in the first place. Just substituting one dependency for another.
Think About It This Way:
Scamming is a business, but it also behaves like an organism. It evolves. It lives or dies based upon its ability to adapt. Just like any animal, this business adapts or dies.
Baiting is about playing with the scammer. It’s not really about collecting information that can be useful, it is about the revenge and anger that scam-baiters feel for the scammers.
For Every Action There Is An Equal And Opposite Reaction!
As such, all baiting has done is to make them smarter, stronger, and better organized. It is an evolutionary reaction to the stimulus of the scambaiters and the scam haters. We see this everywhere now, and mostly in the last five years has exploded.
Scam Baiters are writing books and have dedicated websites, social media pages, and groups. Scammers watch these carefully and have started to use them to improve their training programs. The scammers have learned exactly where the point was that they lost the Mugu (Victim), and how to improve their sales pitch – yes scammers are selling something – they are selling their scam. (FYI we carefully block scammer nations from seeing our websites and social media pages – we also regularly ban people we suspect of being scammers simply observing.)
An example of that adaptation in the increasing use of children in fake profiles.
We are also seeing a lot more use of new tech as well. Every new app is a new pipeline of victims.
So far we have been losing the war. In scamming we have no balance at all. Though fortunately, the 2017 numbers showed a reduction in romance scams, that was just because scammers shifted to other types of scams.
The vast majority of scammers are not being arrested. Victims are not getting their money back, and this allows the scammers to multiply.
It won’t be forever, progress is being made. In the last 12 months, the U.S. Government has finally become serious about global online fraud. But as long as the scam baiters give away all of the secrets of the trade, we will continue to be on the odd foot!
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