Damon, BBC, Jul. 13
Mike is a scambaiter,
dedicated to fighting back against those who send out the notorious
419 e-mails, promising untold wealth to anyone gullible or naive
enough to disclose their bank details.
Mike asked us not to use his full
name because he’s dealing with some heavy cross-border criminals.
His group of volunteers at 419eater.com
use their computer skills to fool the scammers, to disrupt their
crimes, and to have some fun at the scammer’s expense.
Every day, millions of people get
e-mails like this:
Dear Sir/ Madam,
I am fine today and how are you?
I hope this letter will find you in the best of health. I am Prince
Joe Eboh, the Chairman of the Contract Award Committee,
of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC),
a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
NDDC was set up by the late Head
of State, General Sani Abacha who died on 18th June 1998, to manage
the excess revenue accruing from the sales of Petroleum and its
allied products as a domestic increase in the petroleum products
to develop the communities in the Niger Delta Oil producing areas.
The estimated annual revenue for 1999 was $45 Billion US Dollars
And of course, if you were only willing
to help the writer siphon some of it off, a few of those many millions
could be yours.
Mike told me how he baited the writer
of the e-mail above, Prince Joe Eboh.
I’m sure he’s not
a prince at all, Mike says. He contacted me with a standard
419 [so-called after a section of Nigeria’s legal code] scam.
I tried to turn it round by
saying I worked for a church and we couldn’t do any business
with people who are not of our faith.
Mike sent a response in the name of
Father Hector Barnett of the Church of the Painted Breast.
I would dearly love to help you.
If you ever decide to join our faith then of course I could help
you both with my experience and financial support. I wish you
well in your endeavour my brother.
Yours, Father Hector Barnett
Now I knew the guy would write
back and say: ‘Well, can I join your faith?’ and indeed
he did, says Mike.
Dear Father Hector,
If joining your faith is what it
takes to help me of course, I am ready to join you. I’m from
a good Christian family. I will do anything you want me to do
in the faith. Don’t forget that I have to transfer the money
to your account as urgently as possible. Send me your account
details. I hope to read your mail soon.
Prince Joe Eboh
Our ministry was founded in 1774
by a wonderful lady by the name of Betsy Carrington. She spent
many of her first preaching years in Kenya, spreading the holy
gospel amongst the local people there. She was the first person
male or female to promote Christian texts and beliefs to the Masai
The most famous account is when
as a test she had to remove the part of her clothes and paint
the half of her body and breast with the red Masai war-paint
as a gesture of faith and belief to them so that they would accept
her and trust her. She was almost immediately accepted by them
and was one of the most trusted westerners known at that time.
As a qualification to enter the
Holy Church of The Order of The Red Breast, all followers must
go through the initiation procedure that Miss Carrington made
so famous. I have attached a photograph of four of our young inductees
going through the procedure.
Please use this picture to enable
you to make the same marking on yourself. I have also attached
a small picture showing the design in more detail. I look forward
to welcoming you into our membership my brother.
Father Hector Barnett Financial
Development—Holy Church of The Order of The Red Breast.
Using image software, Mike made up
an initiation picture. And Prince Joe duly carried out
the induction and e-mailed back a photo of himself in the properly
Dear Brother Hector,
I want to thank the Almighty God
himself for the opportunity I have to be a member of this great
church The Holy Church Of The Painted Breast. I’m looking
forward to establishing a branch of the Church here. But I’ll
like us to finish everything about the business proposal, which
I sent to you earlier …
The picture sent by
Prince Joe Eboh.
He then tried to hit me for
$18,000 for processing fees for transferring millions, Mike
He wrote back as Father Hector, saying
that the church had plenty of money, but there was a withdrawal
fee of $80.
I persuaded him to send me the
$80, which he did, inside a birthday card, by courier, Mike
He and his volunteers give any money
they get from these reverse stings to a children’s charity
in the north of England.
Father Hector of the Church of the
Painted Breast then entered a troubling period of religious uncertainty.
This is your good friend Hector
Barnett. Please do not be alarmed that I am contacting you from
a different e-mail address. I will explain what has happened.
I have been troubled recently after
the death of a dear friend of mine, Minnie Mowse. She was a very,
very dear friend indeed, and her death affected me greatly and
started to make me question my faith. I have decided to leave
the church and join a travelling circus.
I have already made two very good
friends, and tomorrow I will be starting my circus training with
them . .
Prince Joe then began receiving e-mails
from another Reverend of the Church of the Painted Breast
worried about the disappearance of Father Hector and $18,000 from
Joe already knew from Hector’s
increasingly eccentric e-mails that he had put the money into a
business exporting snow to Siberia.
Despite that, Prince Joe still hasn’t
given up, even though he’s $80 down. The e-mail exchange between
the probably fake prince and the obviously fake church continues.
At the same time, the scambaiters
are running several other such stings.
I asked Mike why these people who
are themselves scammers can’t spot an obvious scam.
I think it operates in much
the same way as it does with real victims. Greed clouds their judgement.
The guy obviously thought he was going to get $18,000 so easily,
he was blinded by his own greed.
Which is what happens to those
who fall for the 419 scams; they just see all these millions.
This would all be funny if it wasn’t
for the millions of dollars being stolen and probably put into drugs
or other criminal activities.
Mike and his friends send all their
e-mail exchanges to the police in the UK, Nigeria and to the FBI—he
says they’ve had no response. And even warning the victims
does no good. Most of them don’t want to believe they’re
The latest e-mail scam concerns lottery
winnings you didn’t know you had.
If you’re tempted, just remember
Prince Joe who’s still sending e-mails saying he’s sticking
to his promise and saying the daily prayer: When all above
seems a great test, Get on down with the Holy Red Breast.
When I said the prayer this morning,
something like a fountain went down my system making me to feel
strong & happy. I have spent money to process all the necessary
documents for the transfer of this fund. What remains now is the
registration of your name as the contractor who executed the contract.
(Posted on July 13, 2004)
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