As technology continues to advance, it's becoming easier for spammers to target unsuspecting internet users. At their best, spammers are an incredibly annoying part of digital life. At their worst, they prey on the most naive members of society. Perhaps that's why it's so satisfying to watch the tables turn on the spammers of the world.
Some people, like James Veitch, have become experts in embarrassing spammers. Others have tricked their would-be scammers into elaborate tasks, like joining a fictions religious order. More and more people are becoming digital vigilantes and coming up with new and creative ways to get revenge against spammers. These underappreciated heroes are doing what most of us have only dreamed of: sticking it to those responsible for the thousands of unread emails in our inboxes.
To defeat a spammer, you have to think like a spammer. James Veitch took this advice to the next level when he decided to embark on a crusade against spammers. He's managed to take this unusual hobby and turn it into a full-on career, even writing a book about his experience as a spam fighter.
According to Veitch, the most important thing you can do is waste a spammer's time. In a TED Talk, Veitch discussed the first time he ever responded to a spammer in detail.
One day, Veitch received an email from a man offering him an exclusive business deal. Veitch decided to play along, asking for details on the deal. The spammer informed him that he wanted to ship Veitch $2.5 million dollars in gold, but Veitch had bigger ideas. He kept asking for more and more gold, made fake graphs to illustrate his business savvy, and forced the spammer to speak to him in a ridiculous code.
Some revenge can be downright magical. This story starts with a supposed postal mix-up, with the spammer claiming that a package worth $5 million was accidentally shipped to the Chicago airport instead of the intended recipient. In the email, the spammer said all that was needed to claim the package was the payment of a $350 storage fee.
The reply they got back was straight out of the Wizarding World. The intended target claimed to be Arthur Weasley, saying they were dismayed by the postal mistake, typical of Muggle delivery systems. "Mr. Weasley" then suggested the next package be sent by owl, inquired about how much $5 million would be in gold galleons, and provided the following address:
Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office
Ministry of Magic
According to a reply from the spammer, the address was acceptable.
Some pranksters' plans are more elaborate than others, but few can beat the person who got one spammer to paint a red circle on his chest. The spammer claimed to be Nigerian Prince Joe Eboh and offered 20% of a $25 million sum.
The recipient, in turn, claimed to be Father Hector Barnett, a member of the Holy Church of The Order of The Red Breast. He insisted that he could not do any business dealings with someone who wasn't a member of his faith, but he would reconsider if Eboh promised to convert. Eboh jumped at the opportunity - and Father Barnett explained the history of the church in excruciating detail.
To prove his commitment to the faith, Eboh was asked to send a topless picture of himself with the symbol of the church painted on his chest, and to sign a document swearing to abide by all the church's rules, including, "I shall not listen to Hip Hop" and "I shall not touch the one-eyed trouser snake."
When 77-year-old Herman Marmon received an email from someone calling themselves Davidson Boone, purportedly a representative of Budweiser, he was instantly suspicious. Boone had a business proposal for Marmon, saying he could get paid if he agreed to cover his car in Budweiser advertisements. Marmon ignored the email, but a short while later, he received a similar pitch from "Samsung" that offered him $350 a week for up to three months.
Marmon decided to play along, and soon enough this spammer was sending him false checks for a hefty sum of money. Marmon did his best to waste as much time as possible, and eventually called the spammer out on the scheme.