Pity the scammer who scammed Edd Joseph. The unnamed conman may today be using the 80 ($155) he took for a non-existent games console to buy a new phone. Joseph, meanwhile, is taking revenge after falling for the fraudulent online ad by bombarding the "seller" with the entire works of Shakespeare, by way of - so far - almost 30,000 text messages.

The stunt, revealed in the Bristol Post, cost Joseph nothing (his phone gives him unlimited texts) and gained him only fleeting celebrity and a sense of schadenfreude.

But it also represents a victory on behalf of any of us who have felt powerless in a digital world populated with increasingly devious scammers.

Scamming the scammers has become a sport, inspiring many to rise up and take revenge or beat fraudsters at their own game. It is also the title of a new book by Don Mullan.


Mullan recounts his experience, which started with an email.

"It was from a man called Lazar claiming to be a Serb living in Africa who was dying and had a teenage daughter whom he wanted me to take care of in return for 500,000 [$970,000] and to manage a 5 million fund on her behalf," Mullan says from Dublin. "Anyone with an inbox has received emails like it and most of us delete them but this time I decided I would respond."

Scamming the Scammers reproduces the ensuing, epic exchange, which is too long to recount here, as well as three others with people who, by various and wildly imaginative means, tried to convince Mullan to give them his money.

"I realised they were dealing in lies, so I began to deal in fiction and these extraordinary relationships developed," he says.

After a couple of emails, Lazar became Michael, which Mullan believed to be a slip-up. Instead, Michael explained, Lazar had died and he was his solicitor. Mullan would need to send the legal fees required to release the promised payment. He didn't, of course, but took pleasure in wasting the scammer's time, inventing his own scenarios and fictional conspirators.

"Part of the challenge is you didn't know what you were going to get in reply to each email.

"Generally, I would never spend more than 15 minutes on this a day, but I saw it as a kind of relaxation," he says.

"I also enjoyed using an imaginative part of my brain I didn't realise I had."


Whole websites are devoted to similar "scammer baiting" of online fraudsters who, in all their guises, cost the global economy as much as US$200 billion ($235 billion) a year, according to some estimates.

- Independent