Scam baiting is where a person responds to a scam and plays the potential victim, in order to waste the time and effort of the scammer, gather information that will be of use to authorities, and publicly expose the scammer.  However, some scam baiters do it just for fun.

The objectives of scam baiting are commonly:-

·         To keep the call or messages going as long as possible - costing the scammer time and effort and giving them less time to scam other people.

·         To gather as much information as possible, so that the scammer can be identified

·         To publish all relevant information about the scam and the scammer online so it can be easily found as a warning to others.

Is Scambaiting Legal?

Scam baiting for fun is generally legal and ethical as the scammers start the conversation and there is no reason why you cannot lie back to them and lead them on.

However, things get tricky if you try to get personal information from them for passing to the authorities or publicising their activities.

It is wrong to carry out any illegal acts in scam baiting even if the motive is worthy.

Scam Baiter Actions

If you treat this as a game, it can be a lot of fun as many scammers are both greedy and stupid.

You can fool them into thinking you are taken in by their story, that you believe everything they say but it may be more fun to make them work for your trust. Ask for a sample of the product for free before committing yourself or send them specifications for how the supposed gold bullion can be delivered to you or detailed itineraries for when you arrive in their country to collect your shipment of cash from customs etc.

You may choose to record the audio of your interactions or a video record if relevant.

You may send them a detailed questionnaire to fill in so they can become a member of your fictitious Church in order to then be allowed to send your Church a donation.

Scam baiters often use ridiculous names for their invented characters e.g. Great Aunt Hopscotch Filletofish

It’s up to you and your imagination.

Scambaiting Strategies

The start of scam baiting is to get yourself a fake email address and use it for answering scam messages. Pretend to be taken in by the scam and keen to get whatever it is they are offering. Then it’s about delaying tactics as to why you haven’t sent them the money yet and it’s about having fun at the scammers expense. 

Then come the strategies most commonly used by scam baiters.

·         Wasting their time – to keep the scammers wasting more time to deal with the scam baiter not usual people.

·         Documenting what how they carry out the scam – the point is to gather information about the scammers and publish it online as a warning against the scammers.

·         The Trophy Hunters – Scam baiters who reply to scam e-mails and involve fantastic story-plots, and pull the scammer into their imaginary world.

·         Church bait – getting scammers to join your fictitious church

·         Art bait – to get them to produce a piece of ridiculous art e.g. tattooing themselves

·         Cash bait - trying to get money from scammers

·         Freight bait – to get the scammer to pay for shipping something to themselves.

·         The romance Scam Seekers – to play along with the romancers as if smitten and make the scammers work hard to win them over. These scams can last for weeks or even months.

·         The Safari Agents – Scam baiters who try to persuade the scammers into leaving their home and travel overseas.

Safe Scam Baiting

Scam baiting needs to be done in a safe manner. Do not use any real details about yourself e.g. your email address, phone number, age, location etc. Do not appear in video chats with the scammers as they may be able to use those clips to scam others.

See 419eater.com for more information about safe scam baiting.

419eater.com

This website is all about scam baiting and they concentrate on the Nigerian 419 scammers.

Their tagline is:- Don't fall for common scams like this - fight them!

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.

419eater.com has lots of advice and stories about 419 scam baiting.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know – go to the About page then Contact Us.

The first stage to controlling your digital footprint is to find what it is and assess any changes you wish to make.

Digital Footprint

Your digital footprint is the information available online about you, your work, friends, business etc.

The best place to start is the search engines – search on your name, nickname, place of work, sports clubs you have ever joined, where you live, postcode etc. Also use friend’s names and any other keywords that could lead back to you.

Then move onto social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. – try them all even if you haven’t signed up for them as maybe your friends have and have posted photos etc. including you.  If you do have such social media accounts then logout before searching so you get an outsiders view of your information.

Now you can see your basic digital footprint, you can decide where you want to make changes or delete information (if possible).

If you see problems in items you’ve posted online, then hopefully you can delete or change them but if they’ve been posted by someone else you will need to approach them to have the items removed.

You should remember that it is common practice among employers to search online when assessing job applicants. So if there is anything unprofessional, this has the potential to damage your career prospects and you need to fix it if possible.

You may choose to do any of the following:

·         Remove any photos, content, and links that may be inappropriate or reveal too much information.

·         Use the privacy features of your browser and of the various websites you frequent to reduce the visibility of your information.

·         Block comments on your posted information or moderate comments if you need some to be publically available.

·         Close down any old social media accounts you do not need to use.

 Privacy

You may find that most of the information about you on the Internet is on social media, but having checked your digital footprint – you now know what and where that information is.

You may wish to change the software and services you use and replace them with more secure versions. Consider email, browser, chat, search, social media etc.

Social media accounts will have privacy settings. It is your choice as to who you allow to see your postings – specific people or friends or the public. Review the privacy settings for each of your social media accounts.

Facebook Privacy Settings

Go to account settings and select 'privacy' from the menu on the left. You can then decide who can see what information is posted -- and whether you can be looked up based on your email address, phone number or search engines.

Twitter Privacy Settings

Click the profile avatar on the top right of the screen, and select 'Settings.' You can choose to make your profile private or public and also change a range of basic account options.

Browser Tracking

When you visit a website, third-party trackers (cookies, web beacons, pixel tags, etc) may be stored on your computer. Organisations use these to track which sites you visit, what you buy etc.

Websites can have dozens of different trackers installed – to track visitors or sometimes to tailor adverts to your behaviour etc.  

You may wish to ‘block’ trackers and you do this through settings in your browser or by installing dedicated tracker blocking add-ons and services.

Security Habits

It is wise to develop good security habits online, such as:-

1. Maintain a professional attitude in everything you post or comment online. You can still have fun but just be aware that anybody may read your posts.

Posts should be accurate and appropriate for your partner, children or boss to read.

It can be very difficult to delete posts so think first and don’t be drawn into gossip, arguments or anything similar. Tempers and behaviour can easily get out of hand on the Internet and leave damaging content that you wouldn’t in a calm frame of mind want others to see.

2. Monitor what other people are saying about you online

On some social media sites, you can adjust your account settings to have notifications sent to you when other people mention you, tag you, like, comment or share content. You can also enable approval rights when you are tagged in other people’s posts or photos, so they don’t appear on your timeline unless you’ve reviewed and approved them.

3. Incorrect spelling and/or poor grammar is very unprofessional and should be corrected.

4. Keep your information up-to-date, especially if you are job hunting or networking

5. Connect with other people but check them out first as many request for friends etc. are from automated services seeking access to your profile and posts or to set you up for a scam.

6. Close any accounts you no longer actively use.

 

Your social media accounts and content on the Internet is about you and for your benefit – treat all posts, comments and messages etc. as long term entries and ensure they reflect well on you.

Do click on the Facebook or Twitter icons on top right to follow Fight Back Ninja.

Click here to listen to How to Avoid Cold Callers podcast

Call Centre Graphic

We all get unwanted cold calls and they can be very annoying and in some cases lead to fraud and loss of money.

Many are harmless and just waste your time and may lead to more unwanted phone calls.

Here are some actions that will help you to avoid cold callers

A.     The Telephone Preference Service

This service is provided by the government and lets you register your phone number. Once registered it is illegal for cold callers to call your number (legally, telemarketers must not to call a TPS subscribed number after 28 days. Registration is free and only takes 2 minutes.  The service was setup because there are so many cold callers from companies about PPI, Accident Claims, Overseas Scams plus Spam SMS and other nuisance calls.

TPS is for the public at their residential address and sole traders but not businesses.  There is also a separate corporate telephone preference service for companies to register their phone numbers to prevent cold callers.

B. The Magic Phone Number

When buying something online or registering online there is usually a form to fill in of your details and quite often this insists on your telephone number even though you know it’s not needed.

This is annoying, plus you wonder what they will do with your phone number. Will they sell it or give it to third parties, resulting in phone calls you don’t want?

As the forms usually check the number is in the correct format, you need a real phone number to input.

You can use 0333 88 88 88 88 (the last 8 doesn’t matter if the form only allows 11 digits).   

When, they call, those cold callers will hear a short recorded message:-

"trueCall38 is handling my calls. I prefer not to be contacted by phone, so please contact me via my email address.  Goodbye!"

Problem solved.

But why do companies ask for your phone number? 
They rarely really need it, and you don't know what they are going to do with it. Interestingly, experts say that asking for a phone number can reduce the number of people who complete an online form by 25%. That’s a big loss.

If you don’t want someone to have your phone number – tell them 0333 88 88 88 88

C.      Check Who Called You  

If you’re getting cold calls and want to know who they are from then this website may have the answer.

who-called.co.uk.   You type in the phone number and see who it is. It doesn’t always work, as they don’t have all the numbers  used by cold callers.

The website also lists recent numbers people checked up on and lists some recent scams you should be aware of.

Many cold callers block their ID so you can’t know the number they are calling from, but if you have the type of phone that lets you block callers – then block all calls where the caller ID is withheld.  Or alternatively, a simple remedy to caller withheld is just don’t answer the call. 

There are other websites that also let you do reverse telephone number lookups, such as

https://whose-number-is-this.com

http://whocallsme.com

https://who--called.com/

So, if you want to know who’s calling you and they wont say – then try one of these websites.

D.     Stop Cold Callers by Threatening Legal Action

 

Remember, they called you uninvited – there is no need to be polite. These people can be the bane of your life with repeated calls.

Refer them to non-existent legislation that they may be breaking. Anything that doesn’t follow their script is disconcerting to a cold caller and an authoritative voice warning them of law breaking should stop them immediately.

For example,

My number is registered with the telephone preference service. By calling me you are breaking section 117 of the Telecommunications Act 2012. You are personally liable to a fine of up to £5,000 for a first offence or imprisonment for further offences. I suggest you get your bags packed.

Goodbye.

This is not true of course – it is just intended to stop the cold caller from pestering you.

E.     General Advice on Dealing With Telephone Cold Callers -

 

 Some people enjoy being very rude to such callers to get rid of them, some are more polite but end the conversation quickly. However, many keep talking; either not understanding that it’s a bad idea to talk to such callers and a waste of your time or are just too polite to end the conversation.

A more efficient approach is to be direct.

They will try to engage you in conversation “How are you today”? or a similar question.

Do not engage.  If asked your name or to confirm your name – Do not engage.

Ask “What do you want”?

If not answered, then repeat the question until you get an answer or just put the phone down.

Once answered, you have the choice to continue the conversation or end the call.

End the call with “Goodbye and don’t ever call again” and put the phone down.

If you have a more effective approach then do let us know.by email.

Click here to listen to How to Stop Spam Letters podcast

If you want to stop spam letters coming through your letterbox there is a series of actions you can take.

1. Register with the Mailing Preference Service  (http://www.mpsonline.org.uk/mpsr/)

Register with the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) - this will stop advertising material that’s addressed to you personally.

You can register online at the MPS website, or you can contact them by phone or email.

It can take several months for the service to fully take effect. 

2. Register with Royal Mail Opt Out Scheme for Junk Mail Deliveries

You can tell Royal Mail to stop to delivering junk mail to your address.

Go to the website and search on 'opt out' as you need to download this form. 

Fill it in and send it to the address on the form and that will stop Royal Mail adding to the piles of junk mail you receive – at least for 2 years then you have to re-register.

3. Contact your electoral registration office

You can search for your local electoral registration office on GOV.UK.

Ask them to take your details off the ‘open register’  which is a list of people and addresses that is bought by Marketing companies to create mailing lists. 

You can choose for your details not to be added to the edited electoral register when you fill out an electoral registration form. Tick the box that says “opt out” of the open register.

4. Return to sender

If you get junk mail with a return address on the envelope, you should:

Write “unsolicited mail, return to sender” on the envelope and post it (you don't have to pay as long as the item has not been opened)

This won’t guarantee that you won’t get any more junk mail, but it’s a way of letting the company know that you don’t want any more mail.

5. Get or make a notice for your front door

The sign can say ‘”No Junk Mail” or “No Unaddressed Mail” or something similar.

You can get these notices online or make your own.

These steps won't guarantee no unwanted mail but should make a significant reduction in the unwanted mail you receive.

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Click here to listen to Have Fun With Cold Callers podcast

 

There are lots of ways you can have fun with those annoying cold callers. Here are some tried and tested methods. Enjoy.

A.     Annoy Cold Callers By Wasting Their Time

 

There’s lots of ways you can waste their time

·         Pretend you can’t hear very well and make them repeat each statement several times

·         Pretend to be stupid and misunderstand everything they say

·         Repeat back to them each thing they say

·         Ask their opinion on any soap opera or reality TV series that you watch then regale them with how wonderful the programme is

·         Pretend to cry – tell them you’ve broken up with your true love and are heart broken (good for any budding actors) and pour out any anger you’re feeling.

·         Pretend you know the caller and invent a whole back story for last time you saw them and refuse to accept that they don’t know you

 

Any of these tricks are likely to have the caller put down the phone but it depends how well you play your part. So enjoy yourself, be creative and waste their time.

 

B.     Annoy Cold Callers by Being Friendly and Questioning 

For example:-

Caller: Hello. Is that Mr. …..

Me: What do you want? (in a bored ‘heard it all before’ tone of voice)

Caller: My name is Natasha and I’m calling from Lifestyle Choices. I would just like you to help me please with answers to a few questions. It will only take 2 minutes.

Me: (now sounding friendly) So, you’re Natasha and you’re from Lifestyle Choices.  Do you do a lot of surveys Natasha?

Caller: If you could just answer a few questions Sir.

Me: Natasha, Do you work for Lifestyle Choices or are you just contracted to them?

Caller: I work for Lifestyle Choices. If you could answer a few questions Sir.

Me: So, Lifestyle Choices – what do they do.

Caller: Can you answer some questions please Sir.

Me: Of course, after you answer my questions. Now, where was I. Oh Yes, I remember. You were going to tell me about Lifestyle Choices.

Natasha disconnects.

Good riddance to another cold caller.

 

C.     Confuse the Cold Caller

Cold callers have a script to follow – a set of questions and expected answers.

If you behave unexpectedly – they don’t know what to do and will often give up i.e. put the phone down.

There are endless things you can do to confuse them, such as

1.       Keep a take-away menu by the phone and start reading it out – place an order and ignore anything they say – just keep reading it out. E.g. I’d like to order 3 spring rolls followed by the Peking Duck with egg fried rice and 2 portions of crispy noodles and some of that seaweed stuff . Plus … and so on.

2.       Say ‘I don’t speak English’ to whatever they ask until they put the phone down.

3.       Invent your own religion and try hard to convert them. I’m glad you called today as I have the good news of the 3rd coming of Quixacoatl to tell you about. Now, Quixacoatl created the earth in 5 minutes and he’s due back tomorrow to collect all of the believers. And so on.

4.       Say Thank you for calling the PPI hotline – we can get your thousands of pounds back. I just need you name, address and bank details first. You’ll hear the phone slam down  

Any unexpected behaviour will do the trick – so confuse them.

 

D.    Annoy Cold Callers By Making Noise

Some people keep a whistle by your phone so when they get a cold caller –they give them a quick blast.

Some people keep a radio near the phone so they can switch on a noisy station, put the phone by the radio and leave it.

If you can do animal impressions – then why not bark loudly or grunt loudly.

You could record a brass band or some other noisy music and play it when the cold caller phones

You could shout “Sorry . I’m a bit deaf, Can you repeat that”

Alternatively, stand back from the phone and have a good scream – that should send them running and will make you feel better.

 

E.     Annoy Cold Callers By Being An Answer Machine

Answer the phone like this:-

All of our operators are busy.

If you would like to leave a message that no-one will listen to then press 1 now

If you would like someone to call you back – fat chance of that, then press 2 now

If you would like to waste more of your time then press 3 now repeatedly.

And so on.

 

They always put the phone down quickly

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