They pilfer nearly $200 million from Americans annually and drive some of their victims to suicide, but Nigeria's notorious e-mail scam artists may finally have met their match -- and the results can be hilarious.
British online vigilante "Shiver Metimbers" is leading tens of thousands of "scambaiters" in a crusade to shut down advance-fee fraudsters, grifters who spam unwitting victims with elaborate, e-mailed sob stories promising a share of nonexistent fortunes in return for upfront payments.
So-called 419 scams, named after the section of Nigeria's criminal code that covers the conduct, are the most common type of con; victims are sometimes left penniless.
But Metimbers and crew turn the tables on scammers one by one, boomeranging the tricksters' own tactics to entice them into performing outlandish tasks in desperate pursuit of cash -- then trumpeting evidence of the con artists' navet for the online world's amusement.
A 43-year-old, self-employed computer engineer from Manchester, England, Metimbers has most recently spun counter-yarns that have compelled 419ers to make elaborate wood carvings, pose for comical photos and fly from London to Scotland. In one episode, which concluded in March after a five-month exchange, he succeeded in having a Nigerian fraudster tattoo "Baited by Shiver" on his body in order to claim a fictional $46,000 prize.
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