Scam baiting

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Scam baiting (or scambaiting) is a form of internet vigilantism primarily used towards advance-fee fraud, IRS impersonation scam, technical support scams,[1] pension scams,[2] and consumer financial fraud.[1]

Scambaiters pose as potential victims to waste the time and resources of scammers, gather information useful to authorities, and publicly expose scammers. They may document scammers' tools and methods, warn potential victims, provide discussion forums, disrupt scammers' devices and systems using remote access trojans and computer viruses, or take down fraudulent webpages. Some scambaiters are motivated by a sense of civic duty, some simply engage for their own amusement, or a combination of both.[3]


For scams conducted via written communication, baiters may answer scam emails using throwaway email accounts, pretending to be receptive to scammers' offers.[4]

Popular methods of accomplishing the first objective are to ask scammers to fill out lengthy questionnaires;[5] to bait scammers into taking long trips; to encourage the use of poorly made props or inappropriate English-language idioms that surreptitiously cast doubt upon their scams.[6]

Baiters may deceive scammers with claims as ludicrous as the ones they have used to defraud their victims; or they may entrap them with Trojan horses, such as remote administration tools, that enable baiters to gain sensitive information from or damage scammers' computers. Baiters may publicly humiliate scammers by live streaming their sessions[1] or persuading them to produce humiliating images colloquially known as "trophies". Some of the images that were uploaded to early scam baiting websites have been described as reinforcing racist stereotypes.[7] However, modern day scam baiting content is primarily centred around education on how the scams work and how to prevent falling victim to scams.[8]


In May 2004, a Something Awful forum poster asked for advice on how to deal with a bogus escrow scam from a buyer on eBay. Since the eBay auction was for an Apple PowerBook G4, the poster sent a three-ring binder crudely dressed as a PowerBook and declared it to customs at the value of a real product. The buyer, who lived overseas, paid several hundred dollars in import duties to claim the fake laptop.[4][9] A member of the scambaiting website was able to convince a scammer to send him a wooden replica of a Commodore 64.[10]

In February 2011, the Belgian television show Basta portrayed, with hidden cameras, how a scammer was fooled during a meeting with baiters, raising the stakes by involving a one-armed man, two dwarves and a pony. Eventually, a police raid was faked, during which the baiters were arrested and the scammer went free, abandoning the money, and without any suspicion.[11]

In January 2014, members of 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.[12]

In 2015 and 2016, James Veitch hosted three TED talks about scambaiting.[13] Veitch also presented the Mashable video series "Scamalot" on YouTube.[14]

In March 2020, an anonymous YouTuber and grey hat hacker under the alias "Jim Browning" infiltrated and gathered drone and CCTV footage of a fraudulent call centre scam operation in India with the help of fellow YouTube personality Karl Rock. Through the aid of the British documentary programme Panorama, a police raid was carried out when the documentary was brought to the attention of assistant police commissioner Karan Goel,[15] leading to the arrest of call centre operator Amit Chauhan, who also operated a fraudulent travel agency under the name "Faremart Travels".[citation needed]

YouTube and Twitch are popular sources scambaiters use to educate and/or entertain their audience about various types of scams.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "A guide to trolling a tech support scammer (Wired UK)". Wired UK. October 15, 2012. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  2. ^ "This is what a Social Security scam sounds like (". Federal Trade Commission. December 27, 2018.
  3. ^ Zingerle, Andreas; Kronman, Linda (2013). "Humiliating Entertainment or Social Activism? Analyzing Scambaiting Strategies Against Online Advance Fee Fraud". 'Humiliating entertainment or social activism?': Analyzing Scambaiting Strategies Against Online Advance Fee Fraud. pp. 352–355. doi:10.1109/CW.2013.49. ISBN 978-1-4799-2246-8. S2CID 19138313.
  4. ^ a b Rojas, Peter (May 14, 2004). Engadget Retrieved December 26, 2015. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Ockenden, Will (June 6, 2014). "The dubious "art" of trolling". Social Media Week. Archived from the original on July 12, 2014. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  6. ^ Cheng, Jacqui (May 12, 2009). "Baiting Nigerian scammers for fun (not so much for profit)". Ars Technica. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  7. ^ Various sources:
  8. ^ Tait, Amelia (October 3, 2021). "Who scams the scammers? Meet the scambaiters". The Guardian. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  9. ^ Roth, Wolf-Dieter (May 28, 2004). "Wir basteln uns ein Apple G4 P-P-P-Powerbook". Telepolis (in German). Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  10. ^ Madrigal, Alexis C. (September 28, 2010). "How to Trick an Online Scammer Into Carving a Computer Out of Wood". The Atlantic. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  11. ^ Pest eens een internetfraudeur Basta on YouTube (in Dutch) Archived 2016-05-08 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ [1]. YouTube
  13. ^ "James Veitch Keynote Speaker". WME Speakers. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  14. ^ "Man hilariously responds to stranger's totally legit $9 million inheritance offer". Mashable. July 29, 2016. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  15. ^ Dhankhar, Leena (March 4, 2020). "Udyog Vihar call centre duped at least 40,000 in 12 countries; 2 arrested". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on March 5, 2020. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  16. ^ Rigg, Jamie. "Making a living scamming the scammers". Engadget. Engadget. Retrieved February 3, 2020.

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