Interview with a Scammer – Part Three
Editor’s Disclaimer: Whilst I am reporting an actual conversation, I have no way of verifying the information or details contained within. The interviewee contacted me voluntarily and anonymously claiming to be an ex-scammer who is now studying in the UK. I have agreed to tell his story but this is told ‘as is’ without guarantee as to accuracy or truthfulness. To protect our users we have agreed that the interviewee, who will be known by the pseudonym “John”, will not directly take part in discussions or comments and will not join our community. I do not know how long “John” will maintain contact and in the event that contact is broken, this series of blogs will be discontinued.
We were contacted by reformed Nigerian advance fee fraud scammer “John”. He asked us to publish his story to help warn our readers about the dangers of entering into transactions with strangers via email. You can read the first part of our interview with “John” Here.
Scam Detective: Before we start, I’d like to apologise for losing my temper with you last time we spoke. I said some things that I should not have said and it was rude. I’m sorry.
John: It’s ok, I understand you getting angry. I know I have done some very bad things.
Scam Detective: I want to talk about the gang you worked with. Tell me about your relationship with the rest of the gang.
John: It was not good. The gang was full of bad people. There was always pressure to send more emails and get more victims. It was always “send more, send more”. When I was promoted and was asking victims for money, the boss always wanted to know when the money was coming. Whatever I was doing was not good enough and if he thought I was not working hard enough he would threaten me and my family. One time I tried to run my own scam on the side and cut the boss out. He found out and beat me badly. He watched me much closer after that and I didn’t dare to try it again.
Another time I got into big trouble because of a victim who kept saying he had sent money when he hadn’t. He sent me 4 fake wire transfer codes and each time the boss went to pick up the money they told him that the number was wrong. The last time the office staff called the police and the boss had to run away. I got beat really bad for that one. I think the guy was just playing with me for fun and never had any real money.
Scam Detective: Did you get a lot of replies like that?
John: I had a few but I learned how to tell if they were serious or not.
Scam Detective: How?
John: A serious victim would give me the information I asked for straight away so they could get the money. If they were playing a game then they would tell long stories about themselves and give lots of reasons why they could not send the money, or pretend that they had sent it like the guy I just told you about.
Scam Detective: What about relationships with other scammers? Was there co-operation between different gangs?
John: There are lots of gangs playing the game. We would sell lists of active email addresses who had not sent money to us to other gangs who would try different scams with them. There was a lot of competition too. One time my email was hacked by another gang who stole all of my contacts. I lost a lot of money that day.
Scam Detective: You mentioned your family earlier, did they know how you were making money?
John: Yes. Lots of young people in my country play the (scam) game. Many people think that white people deserve to have their money taken because of the way they have treated Africans in the past. My family knew what I was doing, but didn’t like it very much.
Scam Detective: If they didn’t like it, did they ever try and talk you into getting a “real” job?
John: They were realistic. They knew that I had no chance of getting a job that paid as well as the game, so we agreed not to talk about it.
Scam Detective: You were caught by the EFCC. Tell me how that happened?
John: They know that the internet cafes in Lagos are full of scammers and every now and then one will get raided. I was about to collect a big payout from a victim in the US, about $10,000 (£6,000) and the emails were open on my screen. They arrested me and took me away for questioning. They offered me a lighter sentence if I gave them the names of the boss and the other members of the gang, so I did. At my trial the judge said that if I had not helped them, he would have given me 5 years, but only gave me 2.
Scam-Detective: Can you give our readers any tips about how they can avoid getting scammed?
John: The biggest thing I can say is to delete the emails and never to reply. Once you reply your email address will be put on a list and sold to other gangs, even if you never reply again. It just tells them that the address is real and that somebody reads email going to that address. If they can’t get you with 419 (advance fee fraud) they will try phishing or viruses to get your banking details and take your money that way.
I used lots of different stories to get people to send money. I used the dying widow story a lot, saying that I was an old lady dying of cancer and had fallen out with my children. I wanted to give my money to charity and didn’t trust them to carry out my wishes, so was looking for someone outside of the country to make sure it went to the right place. So whatever the story is, make sure you delete the email, because you can be sure it is a scam.
Another thing is not to put email addresses anywhere on the internet. If it is on a guestbook or message board, or on a website anywhere then the foot soldiers will find it and put it on their list.
Scam Detective: What about our readers who have relatives or friends that are being scammed as we speak but are finding it difficult to persuade them that they really are being scammed?
John: I would often get messages from victims saying that their son or daughter had told them they were being scammed. I would try and convince them that I was real and if they had already sent money they would usually keep sending it because they had sent too much to back out and needed to get the big payout to replace their savings or whatever.
I would say that if you think your mom or dad is being scammed then show them everything you can about the 419 (advance fee fraud) scam and keep showing them different websites that warn people about it. They should stop replying and the scammer will give up in time because they want to spend time on people who are going to pay. If you have to, take away their computer so they can’t email any more. Keep telling them that the big payout is not real and never was real, and that any money they have sent is gone and they will never get it back.
Scam Detective: Thank you John.
John: You are welcome. Thank you for talking to me again.
At the conclusion of part 2 of this interview, I said that “John” should feel guilt for the rest of his life for what he has done to his victims. I recognise that this was anger talking and I should not have said it. “John” seems to be an intelligent, articulate young man who, with the right guidance and influences, could put his considerable talents to good use. If he continues his education and is able to put his past behind him and pursue a worthwhile and rewarding career then he could achieve this. He could, however, just as easily slip back into the high risk/reward lifestyle that experienced in his youth and spend the rest of his life in and out of prison. I hope that his choices lead him down the right path.
The Office of Fair Trading has declared February “Scam Awareness Month” with the launch of a brand new television advertising campaign and the introduction of “Scamnesty” bins around the country, where you can bin your scam letters for good.
They also want you to report any scam emails you receive, or websites you suspect of being phony.