I read this article in the New Yorker a few weeks ago, about “The Perfect Mark” — a man who, in spite of being relatively intelligent, fell for one of the Nigerian “419” scams. (The ones where you get an email saying “I have a million dollars in a blind account and need your help to get it out.”)
I’d always assumed these scams were just quick one-hit stabs at getting a credit card number. I had no idea how deep they actually go, and how sophisticated they are. They strung this guy along for years (and he still wants so much to believe that the characters are real!) and did such an amazing job of reality-twisting. Now when I see these emails, I’m no longer just amused and puzzled but a little creeped out that I just got an email from murderous, organized criminals.
So it feels especially wonderful to run across this site, “Welcome to the 419 Eater” where some clever soul conned the cons. He basically tells them “yeah I wish I could help you, but I’m in the middle of this really big deal that’s making me even more money” and baits them into a similar trap. Only in his case, it’s just an extended practical joke. (He never invites anyone to fly to his country then robs and kills them, for example.)
In this one: http://www.419eater.com/html/john_boko.htm they manage to get a scammer to think they’ll make thousands of dollars by carving strange things out of wood, then claim a hamster has eaten the goods. Hysterical.