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|Created by||Michael Berry|
419eater.com is a scam baiting website which focuses on advance-fee fraud. The name 419 comes from "419 fraud", another name for advance fee fraud, and itself derived from the relevant section of the Nigerian criminal code. The website founder, Michael Berry, goes by the alias Shiver Metimbers. As of 2013, the 419 Eater forum had over 55,000 registered accounts. According to one member, "Every minute the scammer I'm communicating with is spending on me is a minute he is not scamming a real potential victim."
The website chronicles various reverse scams, known as "baits," with e-mail exchanges between the baiters and the scammers, and commentary by the participants. The site hosts photographs of individuals reported to be scammers in humorous poses, or holding signs such as "I recommend 419eater". These photographs, according to the members who post them, were in most cases obtained during the process of a bait: the baiter, posing as an actual victim, will request the photos from the scammer, who will comply in the belief that the "victim" is about to fall for the scam and send money.
In some cases, the scambaiter claims to have had the scammers send them money with a ploy similar to the original flim flam. This is known informally as cash baiting. According to Berry as documented in some of his successful cash baits, the proceeds of such reverse scams were given to a local charity. Now however, cash-baiting is frowned upon and is against 419eater.com rules which are rigorously enforced.
The website also includes a message forum and a bulletin board where scambaiters can post messages to communicate with each other. New scambaiters can request to be assigned a "mentor" to assist them in learning how to bait.
The 419eater community also engages in the activity of identifying and removing fake banks and other websites created by the scammers from the Internet, as well as shutting down bank accounts used by scammers in the process of their illegal scamming activities. It does this in cooperation with Artists Against 419 which host a large, publicly accessible database of fake banks and similar fraudulent websites.
During their baiting activities, experienced members may often gain information on victims of scams. This information is used constructively in the battle against the scammers.
Notable events in the timeline of the site
Berry was a featured guest on BBC Radio 2's The Jeremy Vine Show on 1 November 2006. Berry has also collected some of the scambaits shown on website, to a book Greetings in Jesus' Name!: The Scambaiter Letters. In early 2008, Berry retired from active involvement in 419eater.com to concentrate on work and other projects, handing control over to one of the site's long-running system administrators.
Beginning September 6, 2007, the 419eater.com website—among other "scam warning" websites—was subjected to a massive botnet DDoS attack which rendered the site unreachable. However, by September 18, 2007, the site and forums were both back online.
419eater and its operatives was profiled on the September 9th, 2008 episode of Public Radio International's This American Life, specifically one particular bait that ran for 100 days starting in April 2008 and involved sending a scammer named Adamu from Lagos, Nigeria to Abéché, Chad, a dangerous and politically unstable region.
In January 2014, members of the scambaiting website 419eater.com appeared in two segments of the Channel 4 show "Secrets of the Scammers". In the first segment scambaiters persuaded a scammer to travel from London to a remote location in Cornwall by train and taxi to meet a victim (played by a baiter) and collect payment for a gold deal. In the second segment a female scammer met with two scambaiters posing as victims in Trafalgar Square to pass them a fake check. This scammer was subsequently questioned by the police.
- Berry, Mike (2006). Greetings in Jesus' Name!: The Scambaiter Letters. Harbour Books Ltd. ISBN 1-905128-08-8.
- "View Topic - *** Thanks For All The Fish, Jim Lad! ***". forum.419eater.com. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- spamnation on September 6, 2007 06:43 AM (2007-09-06). "419Eater DDoS'd?". Spamnation.info. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- "Enforcers". This American Life. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- "Travel Warning - Chad". U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs. June 2, 2009. Archived from the original on 27 August 2009. Retrieved August 26, 2009.
- Secrets of the Scammers on YouTube
- 419eater.com (Mobile)
- The 419eater forum
- "Turning the tables on Nigeria's e-mail conmen", 13 July 2004, BBC News
- Greetings in Jesus Name!: The Scambaiter Letters
- "Pining for the frauds: scammers act up", February 20, 2007, The Sydney Morning Herald
- A Web Cadre Turns the Tables on African Scam Artists, New York Times
- Scam Baiting Technic
- Baiting Nigerian scammers for fun (not so much for profit)