Look Out Honey, 'Cause I'm Usin' Technology
February 15, 2007 2:04 PM   Subscribe

I posted some items for sale on Craigslist, and shortly thereafter I got email from a typical scammer who wanted to send me and have me cash a check from "his client," and I'd refund him the balance--you know, the textbook overpayment with a fake check scam. Now, I'd like to have some fun with this.

So I opened a Hotmail account and began playing along, giving him the address of the local FBI field office as my "home address" to which he could send the check.

How now to proceed? I'd like to have some P-P-Powerbook-style fun with this and hopefully bust the guy--is that possible? Is it legal? Ideas, suggestions, and advice are all welcome.
posted by fandango_matt to Law & Government (18 answers total)
I did this with some Nigerian but it was less hilarious and more stressful than I expected. Your malice may vary!
posted by unSane at 2:11 PM on February 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

My advice: put your free time to better use and volunteer.

Seriously though, this will not bring about anything worthwhile.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:14 PM on February 15, 2007

do nothing.

Few have the guile and the will to pull something as successful as the p-p-p-powerbook prank.

When the thought of all your internet celebrity fades in a few hours/days into the reverse-scam, it will become stressful and laborious.

then again, I'm pessimistic :-|
posted by nataaniinez at 2:23 PM on February 15, 2007

I think it is enough just to answer the emails. They seemed to have a lot of energy and will play along.

I have a check for $3000 on my cork board that I got in the mail last year from some Ebay scammer and I wasn't even trying to mess with him. I kept telling him to bid if he wanted to, then the item sold, for $320, not to him. He never bid. About three weeks later I found the check in the mail and he told me to keep the balance for my trouble. The name of the bank is "First Fedral".
posted by lee at 2:25 PM on February 15, 2007

Walk away. This is not worth your time, and the more "fun" you have with this, the closer you're going to be to breaking some serious laws.

By all means, string him along with the emails, but don't let it get more involved that that.
posted by bshort at 2:36 PM on February 15, 2007

I've always wanted to find some sort of service that signed up a given email address for huge amounts of spam, but that would mostly be for spammers _to_ craigslist, not those responding to legitimate postings.
posted by monkeymadness at 2:50 PM on February 15, 2007

I like lee's comment! Maybe you could counter-offer with an eager tone, saying you'll do it for a higher price. Try to get him to bump up the overpayment (which he should be thrilled to do if he thinks you're a rube). See how large a check you can get and then just keep it for laughs.
posted by peep at 3:01 PM on February 15, 2007

Sadly, it's a post-p-p-p-powerbook world now. I think most scammers are hip to anti-scam possibilities, making anti-scamming probably a waste of time and possibly dangerous.
posted by lorimer at 3:19 PM on February 15, 2007

419 eater might be right up your alley.
posted by sephira at 4:19 PM on February 15, 2007

At some point a few years ago, I discovered an ad in the craiglist shared housing listing from a gentleman looking for a female roommate, who could live in his house rent-free if she was 'friendly' and 'young' and 'attractive', or something along those lines.

I guess this type of ad has become commonplace, but at the time I was shocked.

I set up a Hotmail account - something like andreadworkin@hotmail, and wrote saying that I'd like to learn more.

We exchanged a number of emails, and I played dumb 18 year old girl - or rather - some dude's fantasy of a dumb 18 year old girl. I told him that I wasn't sure what to do with my life, I was taking some time off between high school and college, my hobbies were drinking, hanging out, stuff like that. I gave a detailed physical description (you know, 110 pounds, busty, long, blond hair, blah blah blah), and I signed each email 'Love, Andrea')

At first he bought the whole thing line and sinker. We made a date to meet at a coffee shop. I was hatching a plan with friends to ambush him and either do a loud public reading of his emails, or rip off his clothes, or pie him or something, when he suddenly backed out. He said he didn't want to be the kind of guy who did something like this.

I was never sure if he truly had a change of heart, or if he had just grown suspicious of me. Anyway, the whole excercize was mildly entertaining, but I never successfully 'punished' him.
posted by serazin at 4:30 PM on February 15, 2007

No offense, but if youre asking strangers to give you ideas you probably arent clever enough to do anything near as amusing as the pppowerbook thing. I tried that same thing recently and not being very clever meant I just got a lot of annoying email messages. They also seem wise to 'send me a photo of yourself with a newpaper' or something. I think most of them have learned a lesson from all the popular anti-scamming pranks of late.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:51 PM on February 15, 2007

I'd say at least go down to the police station and talk to somebody about what you have so far.
posted by atchafalaya at 5:10 PM on February 15, 2007

I'm all for niceness and everything, but if finding those creepy Craigslist ads creepy means I have "suburban middle-class morality," then where's my minivan.

I've spent a lot of time at the 419eater page. A lot of it is very funny, but a lot of it is also just gross. The best thing you can do is just string these people along. It takes time they could spend scamming others.
posted by roll truck roll at 5:25 PM on February 15, 2007

Actually, the one time I engaged in anti-scamming was, like serazin, in response to a particularly obnoxious sex-for-rent poster on Craigslist. I made a post about him just to blow off steam (you have no idea how frustrating it is to see people like him over and over and over when you're just trying to find a room you can afford in NYC). The post ended up making Best of Craigslist, so I emailed him a link to the BOC listing, saying , "Hey look, you're famous!"... and he finally stopped posting.
posted by allterrainbrain at 5:48 PM on February 15, 2007

This might give you some ideas.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 7:46 PM on February 15, 2007

I think this disagreement is its own [meta-]answer to the question. I think for many of us there's a kind of displaced outrage against the 419 scammers and all online scammers because they pollute what we would like to see as a useful and practical space (and the sex for rent guys are perhaps an even more direct example of harmfully and incendiary-ly polluting an otherwise useful population and/or process).

But in the same spirit, I will say again that doing something potentially dangerous and targeted against the 419 scammer is basically like further pollution if it hurts the OP in any way, which I think it could (either causing snowballing stress/effort or causing the 419 person to get angry & retaliatory). I think especially if the response can't be truly anonymous, it's probably best to let it go.
posted by lorimer at 9:24 PM on February 15, 2007

To clarify, by displaced I meant sympathetic -- because we all do hear of the 419 scams being successful. There was just a thread here in the last few days of some people questioning why an older, tech-inexperienced person would need to be 'protected' when learning about the internet, and someone wrote about their grandmother getting totally cleaned out (entire life savings gone) by an email scam. So by displaced I mean we are very angry on behalf of the victims -- a level of anger that rationally might seem too much since we ourselves would never fall for it, but emotiontlly it makes sense.
posted by lorimer at 9:29 PM on February 15, 2007

[a few comments removed - callouts can go to metatalk or email]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:37 AM on February 16, 2007

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