Having my car wrecked pretty intensely ruined my motoring prospects for a while. Fortunately, my roommate worked at the same company, so we just made our occasional carpooling arrangement full-time until I got some wheels under me again. I determined that I could stick my poor Montero on Craigslist and hope for a little bit of money, and replace it with something cheap. So, on Craigslist it went: the land of grammar abominations, sketchy used mattresses, and tiny, dark pictures of rusty cars. Prime location for my banged-up Montero!
I was hoping it would find a new owner soon in Marshalltown, but it was not to be. It did eventually find a new owner, in Texas, after some shady-but-functional repair work on my part. It got me back to college, despite VERY questionable brakes near the end of the non-air-conditioned August drive, during which it also nearly cut off my foot when it fell off of a borrowed jack during an freeway-side tire change.
I was younger then. I was more daring, and more stupid.
This tells you nothing, however, about the native of Nigeria who lusted after my heap-of-junk Montero! Was it the rollover-prone soccer-mom-mobile that he was after? Or... was it my checking account?
As you shall see, it turned out to be the latter. The poor Nigerian scammer, though, did not get his wish. It all started out with a simple inquiry:
As you can see, the English grammar requirements to be a scammer are not high. I was about 98% sure this was a scammer: the composition is poor, the specific item itself is not mentioned by name (allow mass copy/pasted messages), and the language is not natural. There was little risk in sending a brief response without personal info, though, so I gave him the same link to photos I had in my ad. If he replied the next email would give him away.
Well, how about that! With a legitimate UPS tracking number, I'd have thought that this guy was a first-class scammer- except that he thought he was scamming B. H. Obama and remained clueless. I puzzled over the UPS tracking number for a while. It did in fact register a parcel on the UPS website, and one delivered to Ames, Iowa, which is pretty close to Marshalltown. How did he get that number? Did he actually send something to Ames in order to get it? Did he enter numbers on the UPS site randomly until he got something close to my location? Surely that'd take forever. I have no clue.
Let me briefly explain how his scam works: he pretends to send you a check for the purchase price of your item plus an additional amount that he needs you to forward on to a shipper. He never sends you a check (or sends you a fake one), but tells you that you need to send the shipper's payment immediately, and pressures you to do so. The victim, believing they're getting a great deal, sends the shipper's payment, which really ends up on Mr. Scammer's doorstep. You sent him real money, but his check never arrives, or is fake. He then disappears with your money and sips piña coladas in the hot West African sun.
I had thought he'd be tipped off after the second message, but apparently, he was so excited over the prospect of having an American wire him money, he forgot to have any sense. I was picturing a guy in an internet cafe in Abuja wetting his pants with excitement over the stupid American who fell for his scam. What luck! Time to make this interesting: now that I have him on the hook, he's in for the long haul.
The form I found is US government for for requesting shipping, and happens to be form number... 419!
What's a poor scammer to do? Stick to the plan. Get the dumb American to send the money. That's the modus operandi, and he's sticking to it. Not going to happen, Mr. Scammer!
Yes! Yes it did! That, my friends, is a scanned image of a US military request for shipping form, poorly filled out in pencil by a Nigerian scammer, and sent back to me in hopes that I would wire him some money. Take a look:
(Click for full size)
Brilliant. I cannot express to you the degree of mirth that I experienced when I convinced a nigerian man who was trying to scam me to send me a form. The poor guy had to find a place to print out my form (costing him money), fill it out, and find a way to scan it. He must have been desperate, or completely oblivious. Wow.
Since he had gone so far, I had to congratulate him, but hope for a little more:
STOP PLAYING ME A GAME! Boy, I thought that dangling the promise of more money would get him coming my way, but the man had a plan, and he was sticking to it. It looks like belligerence was the next improvised step on our detour from his script. He dances out his UPS tracking number again (truly, it's a good trick), but I have some bad news for him:
I've got to play sympathetic- surely the man would be worried if his non-existent check had not been properly delivered to B. H. Obama at the White House! The best course of action would be to stop payment on that one and send me a new one- and of course, I'll get ready to send the 'shipper' a boatload of money! Better make it out for eleven grand, a cool ten thousand more than our original deal. He doesn't seem to notice that, though: the amount is of no concern to a man who's not really sending you checks!
So there you have it: The story of how I trolled a Nigerian scammer.