The onset of the digital revolution ushered in a new era of the opportunistic scam. Fraudsters and shysters could now run their nefarious practices from thousands of miles away (like, say, Nigeria?). Unscrupulous types who lacked the brass neck to pull off a traditional, face-to-face con could now chance their arm by posing as junior members of African royalty with suspect English and even more suspect financial problems.
As digital communication has migrated to mobile devices, scammers have adapted to the new technologies. Their tactics run the gamut from extremely well-organized operations implicating major network carriers to low-level, low-life skullduggery.
You might scratch your head wondering how people can fall for these tricks, but they work on enough people to make it worthwhile for the scammers. Sending a text blast to thousands of numbers takes a second, and they only need a handful of ‘hits’ for the con to pay off. The best way to hit these guys where it hurts is to waste their time, thus reducing their ROI. But who can be bothered to engage with fraudsters when there’s no direct pay off?
Thankfully for the tragically naïve out there who actually fall for such scams, there are people fighting back. One case doing the rounds online sees a man claiming to represent a Fortune 500 company, and offering text recipients the chance to earn $5000 a month working from home. You know the sort of thing. Unfortunately, his mark was clearly doing well enough financially to spend some time being a delightful nuisance by responding to the SMS with a series of humorous messages. Expert trolling, and a dignified response to a decidedly undignified hoax.
Even classier was the SMS response of a 24-year-old Bristolian graphic designer to an internet scam. Edd Joseph shelled out $133 for a PlayStation 3 using GumTree, the UK equivalent of Craigslist. Having sent the money via bank transfer, Joseph was dismayed when his games console failed to materialize. His reaction will go down in the annals of vengeance.
With the seller’s mobile number his only point of contact, Joseph copied and pasted the complete works of William Shakespeare and sent all 37 plays to the scammer – 160 characters at a time. That works out to 29,305 individual messages. Joseph’s unlimited mobile plan meant his literary retort cost no more than his usual phone bill. The entire plan took more than a week to execute – and Joseph received his fair share of irate messages in return.
If you don’t fancy digital vigilantism, then stay digitally vigilant. The best way to deal with scammers is not to fall for the ruse in the first place. The more educated we are on the latest iterations of the mobile scam, the less likely we are to engage, and the fewer scammers there will be.