Author: Cornish, Rick

Scambaiting
 

First, let me stipulate, I’ve been sick. I know, having a cold doesn’t sound like it’s that big of a deal, but this has been a HUGE cold. Rumbling deep in my chest, sinuses impacted like wisdom teeth, arsenic-like achiness. This has been my seventh day and finally I’m feeling like I’ve turned the corner. Lots of sleeping, brothy soups, constant whining Lynn, that kind of stuff. But the point is, I’ve been sick and haven’t been out of the house so I’ve had some extra time on my hands. (Why not use tyher extra time cleaning up the spelling on the web site? Take those complaints to the Message Board.) Anways, that’s how I got into scambaiting.

I should start with an explanation? Here’s’ a definition I took off 419scameater.com:

“So what is scambaiting? Well, put simply, you enter into a dialogue with scammers, simply to waste their time and resources. Whilst you are doing this, you will be helping to keep the scammers away from real potential victims and screwing around with the minds of deserving thieves.”

I first read about this a couple years ago, but it wasn’t till yesterday that I actually tried it.

I know, I know, don’t I have anything better to do with my time? But I’ve got to admit, having a near-real-time conversation with a crook is just a teensy bit scintillating. And besides, I was keeping a scammer of the streets for a little….the MISSION of the scambaiter.

One more thing before going on; today’s piece is way, way long. You’ll understand why as you read. Please don’t worry about offending me if you stop before the end….or skip to the end….or just don’t read today’s Welcome at all.


So, the baiting started when I got up Monday morning, grabbed some coffee, logged onto my computer and found the following email:

“I apologize for having to contact you, but recently, during a trip to London, United Kingdom I had my bag stolen from me. Unfortunately, my passport and credit card was inside the bag. The embassy is willing to help by letting me fly without my passport, I just have to pay for an airline ticket and settle hotel bills. Unfortunately for me, I can’t access funds without my credit card. I’ve made contact with my bank, but the bank requires 2 days to process this request, and since my home bank is in another country, there would be added shipping time. Can you lend me some money so that I can get on the next available flight? I will be able to pay you back as soon as I arrive back in. I need to be on the next available flight. Please let me know if you are available to help and I can forward you details on how you can get the funds to me.

I hope to hear from you soon

Pat (Spray) Davidson
Tri-State Bluegrass Assoc.
RR 1, Box 52
Williamstown, MO 63473”

We all get these, of course, and I would have simply deleted the pesky e-scam but for two things. First, the note was written in damned good English and, second, and more impressively ‘Pat’ signed off with “Tri-State Bluegrass Assoc.” The scammer had done some research, found out I was into bluegrass, (probably without even knowing what it was), even probably knew I was an official of a bluegrass Association and hence was hoping I’d feel some collegial responsibility to lend a hand. Interesting. Intrigued, I responded.…

“Absolutely, Pat, whatever you need.” This was at 7:49 a.m.

Six minutes later I hear back….

“Thanks for your response Bobby I need $2,200 to cover my expenses and get a flight ticket, can you have the funds sent via Western Union? Western Union is the most convenient means for me to receive funds at this time.

You might need to locate an office to get it done and they accept cash only. Let me know if it works for you so I can give you the details you will need to get the funds to me.

Thanks

Pat”

It was at that instant, that of reading a response to my email from an honest-to-God Internet scammer, that it dawned on me I was scambaiting. (Note that I’m Bobby.) I write back…..

“Yes, pass along the details. Glad to help. Oh, is Marty with you?

Bobby”

Instructions on 419scameater.com told me to aim at bringing as much non-scam context into the conversation as possible. Hence the injection of a mythical mutual friend. Would that scare Pat off? Nope….

“Yes we both made this trip together, You can have the funds sent at any Western Union agent location. Here are the details you will need;

Pat Davidson,
11 Charing Cross Road,
London,
WC2H 0QU
UK

Keep me posted. Thanks.

Pat”

What do you know, they made the trip together. Before I can write back, Pat sends another message…..

“Please Bobby let me know as soon as you have sent the funds.

Thanks.”

And then another…..

“Have you been able to send the funds.”

And then a third….

“Am still in my hotel room please email me as soon as you have sent the funds.

Thanks.”

Out of the shower and dried off, I fire back…..

“Working on it. Hey, man, where are you? Say hello to the big dude (Marty). Is he still trying to get a gig with Doyle?

B”

I go back to work on updating the CBA web page for the morning and hear back…..

“Ok keep me in touch.

Thanks.”

I immediately write back…..

“Well, it's gonna be a while. I'm waiting for my wife, Blossom, (I’ve always want a wife named blossom and figured this would be my chance) to come home so I can ask her what account to take the two grand from. She went out to get hay for the llamas and should return soon.

This is to Marty….hey, dude, what's up. I hear Doyle puts his recruits through the wringer. How's he treating you?

Fiddle Man”

And right back….

“Marty here what's up Bobby no I didn't get the audition cause I and Pat made this trip before then.

Please Bobby promise to help us we will pay back as soon as we get back.

Thanks.”

Excellent, I’ve got the scammer playing to roles. Nothing for a while so I write back….

“Hey, what gives with Marty? Put him on the line. I want to hear about his audition with Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Did he get the gig or not? This is big news out in in sunny (rainy) California.

B”

Immediately a response…

“Just try and get back to me with update.

Pat”

Pat’s not interested in chit chat…he wants his money and he wants it now.

So here’s where we stand after more than a half dozen messages. The scammer believes he’s got a live one on the line and he’s willing to humor me. Problem is, he’s getting into deep water. If you re-read the first email you can see that it’s pretty close to flawless both grammatically and colloquialism-wise. The scammer’s obviously had some help composing his opening monologue. But as we go he’s having to answer more and more questions and it’s becoming clear that we have an English-as-a-second-languager on our hands. Still, he can smell the green backs so he’s hanging in.

I decide to make a big move….

“Okay, here's the deal, you guys. Blossom just got home and I explained your situation. Pat, she wants to talk with you before we send the money. You know how women are….Write back with a phone number. We'll get this done.

Marty, you a-hole. You missed an opportunity by shinning on that audition, man.

B”

Obviously the last thing Pat wants to do is have a conversation on the telephone in his broken English and that’s what I was counting on…..

“Bobby we don't have access to make or receive calls except for email at this time please explain to your wife that paying back won't be a problem for us, we can add interest if necessary.

Please just rush down to western union and get the funds sent to me so we can start our arrangements.

Thanks.”

Well, I think, at least he’s offering interest now. Let’s see if we can get Marty back….

“Oh, Marty, before I forget, I just got off the phone with Darin and he says hi. Wants to know when you'll be back to Nashville. He and his crew are playing at the Station Inn a week from Thursday.

What can I tell him?

Fiddle Man”

Note the grammar and syntax starting to fall by the wayside….

“Bobby I will be coming back as soon as I and Pat get ourselves sorted and get out of this mess.

What is your wife saying is she agreeing to let you help us.

Thanks.

Marty.”

I write back….

“DAMMIT Marty, Blossom doesn't LET me do anything. I'm the boss around this house. It's just that $2000 is a lot of damned money, even between friends. She'd just feel better if she could talk to either you or Pat….you know, just hear your voice….the human connection. Could you just borrow a cell phone from someone there at the hotel? You can reverse the charges if that would make it easier. (Of course I had no intention of giving the scammer my phone number.)

On the Doyle Lawson thing, were you going for the bass job or the drums? (Still trying to get a dialogue going separate from the loan thread.

Fiddle Man”

Immediate response….

“Bobby please try and understand we don't have anyone to borrow a phone from. I know $2,200 is a big cash but am promising to pay back with interest please I will be expecting your email with the payment confirmation. Will Blossom let you send the money?

Thanks.”

Okay, so no phone call. I decide to let Pat stew for a while.

A few minutes and then….

“Have you sent the finds Bobby”

Followed by…..

“Bobby try and get back to me”

This, 419spameater.com tells me, is where you want to have the crooks. Pat and Marty can taste their twenty-two hundred bucks; they’ve invested some time and they’re not going to give up. Time for Blossom to step in…..

“Pat, this is Bobby's wife, Blossom.

I don't mean to be a pill, but two thousand dollars is a lot of money to us. Bobby says he's known you for a long time and that you're a great banjo player. But he doesn't remember where he met you. Knowing that would help.

Oh, and I'm sorry about you're being ripped off. I just hate dishonest people who think they can just take money from others with impunity. Don't you?

Blossom”

Trying to inject a little irony here, but apparently Pat and Marty have not strong opinions, one way or the other, about fraud and deception.

Pat writes back….

“Please Blossom help us out I promise to payback as soon as I get back to the states.”

I respond…..

“It's Bobby again. Now Blossom's gone off to the hair dresser. Said she'll be back in an hour. Problem is, Pat, she keeps asking me about you and, to be honest, I don't remember much. I can see your face, and I remember jamming with you….what a banjo player you are….but not much else. If you could just tell me a little bit about yourself I'm pretty sure that when my wife comes back I'll be able to convince her. You know, like where you live, your age, what you do for a living. Are you married….kids, that kind of stuff. That would really help. I know you guys are in a bind and I want to help. Help me help you. Oh, Mary, were you going to audition on bass or drums?

B”

Pat quickly responds, clearly exasperated ….

“If you don't want to help me no problem thanks.”

What, is he pouting? Like, ‘Okay, be that way.’ Whatever he’s thinking it’s clear I’m about to lose him. I immediately write back offering some reassurance….

“Well, the thing is, I'm pretty sure we can help. I've already called Western Union and got the process all worked out. Just need Blossom's go-ahead. Could you share anything about yourself with me. That would win her over I'm sure.

B”

It doesn’t take Pat long to respond. Sure, he’s getting tired of playing footsie, but, hey, the payoff is just over the next hill….

“Ok am Pat Davidson I have 4 children Army, Louis, James and Sandra I in the US my dad Mr. Anthony died 2 years ago am a Banjo player. I and my friend Marty made this trip together Bobby I don't know what else to say to you please just send the funds so I can start my arrangements to leave here soon.

Thanks.”

Okay, we’ve pretty much lost the English fluency at this point. But at least we’re getting a little bit of bio. I thank him and return to the Doyle Lawson sub-thread…..

“Okay, that helps. I'll try that on Blossom as soon as she gets back from the grocery store. (A switch form the hairdresser….want to see if he’s paying attention.)

Hang in there, guys. I'm doing my best.

Marty, bass or drums? Where you auditioning for the bass or for the drums? Darin wants to know.

B”

Mary right back at me….

“Marty here Bass”……

“Cool. Man, I'd give my right arm to be in Doyle's band. Is there a chance you can still audition when you get back? Sure hope so. Maybe if you do, you could put a good word in for me. What do you think?

Fiddle Man.”

It’s been six hours now since my first email to my desperate friends hold in a hotel in foggy old London. Say what you will about Pat and Marty, they’re as patient fishermen. And me? Like I said, I’ve got a bad cold. This is the most excitement I’ve had in six days.

Pat writes back….or is it Marty?

“Bobby have you been able to send the funds.

Thanks.”

To which I respond….

“No, still working on it. Blossom should be home soon. Pat, can I tell her where we met? Was it at the IBMA in Nashville? Or was it Louisville?”

So now Lynn really does return home and I’ve got to get her hay and feed sacks from the driveway over to the barn. It’s so wet outside that that requires using my riding mower and trailer, which in turn requires me to go to Orchard Supply for a can of flat tire repair. I burn forty-five minutes and by the time I’m back to my computer Pat has written six times with the same messages…..

“Waiting to hear from you.”

I write back….

“Man, I'm getting p…..-off at my wife. She just returned from getting her hair clipped and her hair dresser, Celeste, stupid name, huh, has got Blossom wondering if this is some kind of scam. I told her you remembered where we met and everything, but she's still skeptical. Anyways, I think we have a solution to the problem. She says if you can tell her what the weather is like in London right now, she can check on the Internet and see if you're right. If so, that should convince her.

B”

An odd solution, you say? Well, Pat doesn’t think so…..

“Ok Bobby. Please check the weather on google and tell her for me thanks.”

I don’t expect that one and write back…

“Ah, I don't think you understand, Pat. She wants to know if YOU know what the weather is like in London. You know, like, it’s sort of a test.

B”

His response is immediate….

“Ok its sunny here.”

Now, I don’t know about you but I’d have guessed foggy. In any event, after dinner Blossom steps in…..

“Pat, it's Blossom. I just got back from the hairdresser. I hate the cut she gave me. It seems like no matter what I ask her to do with my hair, she does just as she pleases.

Anyway, I just checked the weather and here's what I found….

Weather for London, UK; 52°F | °C; Current: Mostly Cloudy

Can you explain this discrepancy?

Yours truly,
Blossom”

And as quickly as the scambaiting begins, it ends. Just over eleven hours. Did Pat get suspicious? Was he simply bored out of his mind? Or was it having to listen to Blossom rant about Celeste the hairdresser. We’ll never know.

I’m feeling much better today. Turned the corner on my cold. Have a terrific Tuesday.

 
Posted:  3/22/2011



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