419 lifeline
2005-12-12

I kinda feel bad about this one. I spent some time tonight playing mind games with a 419 scammer in Benin (location confirmed by my site logs)

1:17:54 AM mrstheresacolmbo0: COTONOU BENIN
1:17:58 AM mrstheresacolmbo0: REP
1:18:14 AM stephan: Good, you are telling the truth, you ARE in Benin
1:18:25 AM stephan: this is your IP address 81.91.239.5
1:18:39 AM stephan: this tells me exactly where you are sitting
1:19:17 AM stephan: if there were honest policemen in your country, they could arrest you now. Aren’t you lucky that the police are dishonest in Benin?

I started by trying to explain that I knew the scam, that anyone with half a brain knew the scam. I showed her 419 Eater, but I guess she couldn’t wrap her brain around the idea that anyone could see through her stunning plan, because she kept insisting that I had to help get her husband’s millions out of the country.

1:03:12 AM stephan: if you do everything I say, and think very hard with your whole brain, you can be richer than any of the other people in your Internet Cafe
1:04:20 AM stephan: are you still there? don’t you want my help?
1:04:37 AM stephan: because I am the most helpful mark you’ll try to fleece today
1:05:15 AM stephan: I am actually and sincerely trying to help you, but that can only happen if you are truthful with me
1:05:42 AM mrstheresacolmbo0: NO MY BROTHER I DID NOT UNDERSTAND U ALL WHAT I WANT FROM U IS TO ASSIST ME

I tried pasting in the entire 419 FAQ, hoping she would see that people know it’s poppycock. That didn’t work, so I tried a different tack. I even gave her the number of another scammer in Benin:

1:22:45 AM stephan: here, I think the best way to start is if you call my business associate in Benin
1:23:00 AM stephan: Call this man
1:23:01 AM stephan: MAITRE SOSO & CO. LAW FIRM,
RUE 148 ZONE DES AMBASSADE
COTONOU-BENIN REPUBLIC.
TEL: 00229 93 704674
EMAIL: fi2net@latinmail.com

long pause.

1:26:08 AM mrstheresacolmbo0: okey ic

Holy crap! She must have called the number and talked to the other scammer, and now she knows the jig is up! awesome!

1:27:08 AM stephan: Now, do you want real help, or do you still want me to pay you the transaction fees so that you can transfer me millions of dollars so I can be rich with no work and no risk?
1:27:40 AM stephan: which one? millions of dollars in my bank account, or REAL HELP?
1:28:19 AM stephan: Because there is a secret reason why we have a lot of money in my country, and no money in yours.
1:28:42 AM stephan: I can teach you the secret, and you will be more rich than anyone you know in your country
1:29:12 AM stephan: It is some work, but probably not as much as what you are trying to do – and it is HONEST
1:29:38 AM stephan: You might even save people’s souls, if you want that. Maybe be famous.
1:29:38 AM mrstheresacolmbo0: i love that tell me
1:29:57 AM mrstheresacolmbo0: yes
1:30:32 AM stephan: First, admit to me that you are a scammer. I know you are, YOU know you are, just admit it.
1:30:51 AM stephan: or I will block you.
1:31:06 AM stephan: and this conversation will end
1:31:14 AM stephan: and you will never learn
1:31:43 AM stephan: just tell me the truth. There is no millions of dollars in your dead husband’s bank account.
1:32:51 AM stephan: Tell me the truth, and I will tell you the truth of why there is more wealth here than you can imagine, and nothing in your country but poverty and AIDS, and will > teach you how to honestly make some for yourself
1:33:30 AM stephan: I will give you five minutes. There is no risk to you from telling me the truth. Lies can hurt you. The truth cannot.
1:33:39 AM stephan: Five minutes, starting now.

five minutes passed. nothing.

1:38:52 AM stephan: time’s up
1:38:59 AM stephan: how sad
1:39:31 AM stephan: I don’t believe in God, but I bet you do, “Christian”
1:39:36 AM stephan: ha
1:39:40 AM stephan: hypocrite
1:39:46 AM stephan: think about that, “christian,” you would rather cheat people than tell the truth to me and learn to be honest and rich. If there is a hell, you are going there. These five minutes were your last and only chance. As you burn in fire forever, remember these five minutes. This was your only chance. and now it is gone.
1:40:08 AM stephan: If there is a heaven, I will weep for your soul there.
I was going to block her then, but honest, I really want to help those people somehow, it’s so bloody pathetic. They’re poor, and trying the only thing that works.

I repented, though, and threw her the tiniest lifeline. This might not make any sense to my readers, and it certainly made no sense to her: poor befuddled Mrs. Theresa Colombo stuck to the widow story to the end. I’ll explain in a moment.

1:40:52 AM stephan: I leave you, then, with one piece of information, what was to be the first lesson, the first step that you were too full of fear, too lacking in faith to take.
1:41:33 AM stephan: go to this website
1:41:49 AM stephan: make an account. Write the TRUTH about your life.
1:42:09 AM stephan: That was step one. But you don’t know why, and I will not tell you.
1:42:19 AM mrstheresacolmbo0: i can not do this with u for u people not to robing me
1:42:32 AM stephan: And I will not tell you steps two, three, four, and five.
1:42:38 AM mrstheresacolmbo0: my husband have dead
1:42:45 AM stephan: So you will be poor, and condemned.
1:42:54 AM stephan: Goodbye, sinner.

THEN I blocked her.

What I wanted desperately to tell her was this… (summarized; I planned to explain step by step, but this was the path.)


The reason we have wealth here and you have none is a simple secret. In my country, we MAKE things. We make art, we make technology. We innovate. We tell our stories.

Make a blog, at blogger.com. Instead of wasting your time messaging strangers with lies about fat bank accounts and world unrest, write the truth about your life. Write what it is like to try to cheat foreigners. Write about the social pressures that drive you to this crime. Write about poverty and injustice and death and despair, or about the nice things that happen in your life. Write the TRUTH. Write about your faith, and spread that word if you wish.

Because, although most intelligent people in my country know your deal is a lie, NONE of us have heard about it from YOUR perspective. I guarantee that if you write about it thousands, maybe millions of people will go to your blog to read your tale. They might send you money to help you. You can ask for money in your blog. You can even continue trying to steal from people, that will give you more to write about. How many people you talked to, what they said, how some are stupid and some are smart, and how much work it is to squeeze each international transfer out of them.

Show me what you write, and I will help. Once you have written for a week or two, I will show you how to put advertising on your site with AdSense. I will show you how to make T-shirts and hats for people to buy. I will teach you how to make your writing more popular, get it featured on sites like Digg and Slashdot. If you do what I say, someone might even want to make a movie about your life. I live in Hollywood, I will help sell your story, and I will gladly take 5% of that money.


But she could not make the leap from lies to the truth, from parasite to creator, from fear and ignorance to confidence and enlightenment.

And we wonder why the third world is in the state it’s in?

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