Luckily, I have really great parents who paid off my debt to the bank so I could just owe them the money, but I shudder to think what would have happened if I didn’t have that safety net. Believe it or not, I don’t have $2,650 just lying around. It would take me a good six months of saving every single penny to pay that off, and banks really don’t like it when you take six months to pay off an overdraft. In the months since the scam, I haven’t heard a word from the F.B.I. on the matter (not that I expected to). However, last time I went to the bank, I was shocked to see a manila folder filled with fake cashier’s checks with MY name on them. I was informed by one of the branch operators that authorities at a New York airport had confiscated several boxes of these fake checks. The F.B.I. had contacted my bank to investigate my involvement in this newest shade of attempted fraud, and were notified that it was just the next link in a chain of theft. Since this crime ring appears to be bigger than originally anticipated, it seems that the F.B.I. is conducting some sort of investigation, and I have hope that they can at least prevent more people from getting hurt.
Because the authorities typically cannot and/or will not pursue international email fraud, there is little to no justice available for victims. In fact, the only viable form of justice for Advance Fee Fraud victims is incredibly weak – it’s called scambaiting, and the basic premise is that you lurk the Internet with a fake identity, posing as an extremely gullible victim in the hope of snaring a would-be scammer. When you get the scam email, you proceed to string the scammer along with the belief that you are going along with the scam by getting them to waste time and spend money on expensive international phone calls. I have heard of some scambaiters getting their scammers to do ludicrous things such as getting a facial tattoo or traveling cross-country and spending real money on fake travel arrangements, but the usual scambaiter just tricks their scammer into wasting time. All in all, some pretty weakass justice if you ask me. For potential scambaiters, there are some basic guidelines before you get started:
- Use a fake identity. Most scammers are actually extremely dangerous career criminals and gangsters in their home country. While it is unlikely that they will fly all the way to America just to cut your nuts off or whatever gangsters do, you still don’t need them knowing your full name or home address.
- Be able to withstand a lot of harassment. Scammers who get scammed do not react well. They will send you multiple threatening emails and phone calls (if you choose to go that deep), and will definitely send you death threats. Like I mentioned, it is unlikely that an overseas scammer would waste their hard-stolen money on pursuing a scambaiter, but these threats can still wreak psychological damage.
- SHOW NO MERCY. These people are criminals! Not to mention the fact that although they may come from an impoverished country, most of these degenerates are relatively-to-majorly well off by their local standards. I mean, they have computers, don’t they? These people do not deserve leniency or sympathy. They are only out to steal your money and at the very least deserve to be strung along a bit.
I’m sure a lot of you reading this right now are tempted to dismiss this tale, but I plead that you do not. I knew of and had researched these scams well before it happened to me, and was 100% convinced that it couldn’t happen to me, but it did. If they catch you in the right place at the right time with an offer that seems like it will realistically solve all of your problems, you will choose to overlook evidence that something is not quite right. I had multiple opportunities to stop this from happening, and I chose to have faith that this great new job was real. Typically, I’m skeptical of anything that seems like a quick fix, but at the time, I needed that job to be real. I needed it so badly that I chose to make a really bad decision in the hope that just this once, it wasn’t too good to be true. Trust me – losing the money (almost) wasn’t the worst part. The feeling of shock and humiliation over being scammed is overwhelming. I have never felt more stupid in my entire life. I had to go home to my parent’s house for the weekend just so I could lay low and avoid explaining to anyone who asked what happened to the fabulous new job that I bragged about all over Facebook, like an idiot. Even writing this now, months later, I feel my face getting hot, embarrassed by the fact that people are going to read this and know that I am so gullible that I fell victim to this. And yeah, it’s embarrassing, and yeah, and I know that a lot of people are just going to chalk it up to my own idiocy, but I think it’s important to tell my story in the hope that I will be able to prevent others from becoming victims too. Even if you think it’s stupid now, I hope you remember this story when you get an email like the one I reposted above. Because these scammers are out there, and there are a lot of them. Chances are, if you’ve ever clicked on a pop-up, signed a website’s guestbook, signed up for an internet dating service, or applied for a job online, you have gotten or will get one. Don’t underestimate your own gullibility in certain situations – always be alert, never let your guard down, and always ask questions. If it seems suspicious or too good to be true, there is a 99.999% chance that it is. Feel free to make fun of me or lambaste me or just blow me off, I don’t really give a fuck. If I can prevent this from happening to even one more person, my job is done. Don’t be the next person to give away money you haven’t even earned yet.