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Scamming Modus Operandi

Most email scams can be classified into a few different categories - read a brief description of the main types...


These scams are mostly done over the phone and have become more prevalent in the past few years. A scammer (usually from India) leaves a voicemail message on your machine that the IRS has filed a lawsuit "on your name" and you need to call the number back. When you call, they answer "Internal Revenue Service in a thick Indian accent which is really hard to understand. I have talked to a few of these fools before and it is obvious they are reading from a script, and they read the "charges" against you and what you need to do to settle the lawsuit.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • Their knowledge of the IRS and how they work is pitiful.
  • They say "file a lawsuit", which makes it a civil matter, but later they will say an arrest warrant has be filed "on your name" with the local courthouse.
  • The IRS never calls you - first contact is always by mail, then certified mail, then subpoena, if all else fails.
  • They do not accept checks, wire transfers from a bank account, or credit card. The "IRS" only accepts payment by Western Union or they will have you purchase a prepaid money card from a local merchant.
  • They require you to stay on the phone with them the entire time and threaten that you will be arrested within 30 minutes if you disconnect the call. They will stay on the phone while you go to the bank to withdraw the cash, and to Walmart where you purchase the money card. They do this because the scammer you are talking to gets a percentage of the take and if you hang up and call back, you may get someone else and they will lose their cut.
  • They get pissed and get pretty nasty when they find out you are just playing with them. It is hilarious. If you go to YouTube and search IRS Scam, there are many videos and people playing with these scammers. It is worth the time to watch!

Social Security SCAM

These scams are a variation of the IRS Scam. A scammer (usually from India) leaves a voicemail message on your machine that the SSA has filed a lawsuit "on your name" and you need to call the number back. When you call, they answer "Social Security Administration" in a thick Indian accent which is really hard to understand. I have talked to a few of these fools before and it is obvious they are reading from a script, and they read the "charges" against you and what you need to do to settle the lawsuit.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • They think that the Social Security Administration is law enforcement.
  • They'll introduce themselves as "Officer" Mark Wilson, etc. with a badge ID number.
  • They'll list charges against you that include money laundering, drug trafficking, theft, fraud, etc.
  • They will ask you if you have ever been to Texas...
  • Whether it is a yes or no, a car was found with blood and drug residue on the south border of Texas and it is registered with your SSN.
  • The car is always the same - a Toyota Corolla (for some unknown reason).
  • They will tell you that you are a victim of identify theft. They usually threaten with warrants, or seizure of all your bank accounts, and tell you that they will issue you a new SSN.
  • The MO is that they want you to empty your bank account, buy Google Play cards, and "register" them with the SSA. Of course, "registering" them requires giving them the card #'s - everything you need to cash them.
  • They will tell you things like "Do not tell the bank why you are withdrawing all of your money or you will be arrested on the spot". They do this because they don't want the bank teller telling you it is a scam.
  • In my opinion, this is one of the most ridiculous scams. Think what they are telling you - your bank accounts are compromised, so they must close them after you retrieve all of your money first or it will be lost. Then you have to buy Google Play Cards after they issue you a new SSN and after you register them the money will go back into the new account. I saw one scambaiter tell them after "withdrawing" all of their money, "I will just keep it in cash here in my house where it will be safe". They panic and insist that you have to buy gift cards and read to them the secret numbers or you will be arrested. LOL - so freaking funny...

Lower Your Credit Card Interest SCAM

These scams are done over the phone as well. Most of the ones I have seen are the Indian/Paki Group, but I have seen a few where they are Hispanic or even Caucasion. You will get a call that you qualify for a lower interest rate on one or more of your credit cards.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • They are from your credit card company, and then they will ask what credit cards do you have.
  • They will have you "verify" certain info - name, address, city, etc.
  • They will have you "verify" the card data - card # and three-digit code.
  • Right there everyone should know it is a scam. But these types of scams usually try to target older people who are a little more trusting and looking to save money.
  • Once they have that data, they can max out your card.
  • It's not always as straight forward as I describe, they will not ask you straight away name, card #, code...They will usually chit chat for little and ask you non-private questions so you will let your guard down ("Do you use your card online?" or "How many times a month do you use your card?"). They don't care about these answers but they think it looks more legit when they ask you the real questions.

Dead Bank Customer

In this scam, the scammer is either a lawyer or a banker who "discovers" a dormant account in a bank or security company. After a thorough investigation, they determine that the customer died (plane crash, car crash, tsunami, etc.) and that they left no next-of-kin on the account. If the account is not claimed in a short period, it will revert back to the banks Treasury Account. His plan is to present you as next-of-kin, where he has the ability to perfect the documents to prove this.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • Many times, the scammer will not reveal the dead person's last name until you respond, then they will give the dead person the same last name as you, and then say that is how they found you.
  • In the opening story, they will post links to real tragedies (plane crash, car crash, etc.) to enhance the creditability of the story.
  • Their proof will be a Certificate of Deposit - which is usually a really, silly-looking document. When was the last time you received a Certificate of Deposit when you opened a bank account?
  • For some reason, you have to register the change of ownership with the "High Court", which costs thousands of dollars...
  • When was the last time you had to designate a Next-of-Kin on a bank account? I thought that falls under the duty of probate/wills?

Rich Orphan/Cocoa Merchant Son or Daughter

Is this scam, the scammer is the son or daughter of a murdered political figure, wealthy merchant, etc. whose parents left them millions of dollars in a bank or security company. They are usually in a refugee camp where they are prohibited from owning an account in their name; this is where you are needed.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • Their uncle is responsible for their parents death and is trying to kill them as well.
  • Their parents were real people (prime minister of Nigeria, etc.)
  • Often, this turns into a romance scam as well.
  • Confidentiality is key because no one can know where they are hiding (from the evil uncle, government, etc.)

Over-Invoiced Contract

Is this scam, the scammer is a company or government official who over-invoiced a contract for work done or products delivered thus resulting in millions in unclaimed funds. You are needed because the money has to be moved out of the country without involving the official.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • They must have no accounting controls in their government/company not to notice millions missing.
  • This is usually an oil company (everyone hates the oil companies, right)
  • The scammer insists that this is 100% legal and within the ambit of the law (it is called embezzlement)
  • You usually have to open an account with a foreign or online bank - with fees, of course...

Lottery Scams

Is this scam, you receive an email stating that your email account won a drawing for an online lottery. The "winnings" will be paid to you only after you pay the insurance charge, courier fee, shipping fee, Drug/Terrorism Document, etc.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • In this scam, they usually give you a deadline when the fees have to be paid.
  • The lottery is usually sponsored by a big, multinational corporation (Microsoft, Yahoo/MSN, Coca-Cola, BMW, etc.)
  • The email you receive will be filled with reference numbers - Winning Number, Draw Number, Reference ID, Ticket Number, Claim Number, etc. - before I start this bait, I will change all of the numbers - it's funny how they still verify me as the winner...

Romance Scams

Is this scam, you receive an email from the opposite sex where they tell are interested in you. After chatting (email, Instant Messenger) for a little while, he/she will spring it on you. They either need money because they are stranded (unpaid hotel bill, food, plane ticket), or many times it will segway into a Rich Orphan type scam where they have millions in a bank or security company, but can't retrieve for one reason or another.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • I have seen this scam alot through Yahoo Personals - and believe it or not, it seems to come from Russia most of the time (for me anyways - I traced the IP Address)
  • One variation of this scam is the American girl stranded in a foreign country scam...
  • Watch how fast the person tells you that they love you - in one scambait I had, she told me she loved me in the second email and changed her religion to atheism in the fourth...

Charity/Dying Philanthropist Scam

Is this scam, you receive an email from someone who says there want you to disburse their millions to charity - they are either bedridden or terminally ill. Of course there is a generous percentage for you also, just to keep you interested. They usually tell you that they didn't live a good life and they are trying to make amends on their death bed. Most of the time, after the lawyer is introduced, the original character "dies", leaving you to the lawyer, banker, and whoever else is involved.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • They insist on naming you next-of-kin for the funds when a simple Power of Attorney would do.
  • You are responsible of all of the fees (of course), even though they have access to millions of dollars (that is why the original character usually dies - so the lawyer can say they don't have access to the money)
  • You are supposed to help with orphans and "motherless babies homes"
  • As this progresses you can "see" the client getting sicker and sicker
  • Just to throw a wrench in the works, I will state that if the clients dies, I am through with this transaction, because it is too sad..

Loan Scams

Is this scam, you receive an email from a supposed Loan Company, advertising a ridiculously low interest rate and very lenient terms. They will have you state the amount you need to borrow, along with your name, address, and purpose of loan - yes, that is usually the entire loan application. After you agree to the terms, the fees come in - usually consisting of insurance fee, registration fee, tax fee, etc.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • Calculate the payment for whatever amount you told them using Excel - most of the time they will calculate the payment wrong - they don't know how to compute compound interest. I had one "loan officer" ask me to teach him how to do it correctly...
  • The fees are the best - tax fees - they think you have to pay income tax on a loan. The same goes with "loan insurance".
  • Ask them to send you their web address and a company brochure - the web site will be under construction and they can't send a brochure for "security reasons"

Work from Home Scam/Collection Agent Scam

Is this scam, you receive an email from a company who needs help collecting payments for merchandise from foreign customers. "Customers" will send the check to you, you cash them, keep 10% for yourself as your cut, and then forward the rest via Western Union to the "company". Of course the check is fake or stolen, which you don't find out until after you sent the money Western Union.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • There is a sense of urgency here - they want you to forward the money via Western Union before you realize the check is fake.
  • This is a "real" job - besides the fact that you aren't required to fill out tax forms. I have fun with them about this - making them research and find out what tax forms I need to fill out and have them send them to me.
  • This is a good bait in the sense that they will spend their own money to complete - the always send the checks by UPS or FedEx, which will sit at the delivery company until they are returned to sender. I called FedEx to inform them that they had a bogus check, and explained what I did - the guy I talked to was cracking up! He said there wasn't alot they could do, but at least I cost him the price of shipping.

Government Agency/EFCC Scam

Is this scam, you receive an email from either a law enforcement agency, bank, or the EFCC (Economic/Financial Crimes Commission) informing you that they are reimbursing you for getting scammed in the past. You get part of a fund set aside to compensate victims of 419 scams. Of course, they are full of transfer and documents fees.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • Look at the contact emails from the FBI and EFCC - they are Yahoo, gmail, or Hotmail domains.
  • Often the FBI Branch Offices are in England or West Africa.
  • The Grammar and spelling of the college-educated FBI agents is apalling.
  • These are fun scams - along with making fun of them and poking holes in their logic, I will also copy a real FBI Email Address in my replies.

American Soldier Overseas

This has become one of the most prevalent scams out there, especially using Facebook or the other social networking sites. The scammer will contact you and pose as an American Soldier who is currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • This will either segway into a Romance Scam, or more likely they will say they found a box with millions of dollars and need to ship it home. Afterall, who wouldn't want to take some of Saddam's millions?
  • The funniest thing about these scams is the language - they try to pose as Americans, but you would have to be a major dolt not to see something wrong with their English skills.
  • One common phrase I have noticed in these scams are "...I am an orphan". They will say they contacted you because they are an orphan and have no one to help them. How ridiculous is this? Let alone that what American says this?
  • I like to question them about their past (i.e. where they live, school, the army, etc.) as much as I can to poke holes in their story.

Paypal / CraigsList Scams

This applies to any site where people buy and sell used goods...
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • They will respond to your ad, acting like they are interested in purchasing your item.
  • The email they send you is standard / generic - it usually doesn't say what the item is - i.e..."...I am very interested in the ITEM you advertised..."
  • They insist on paying by PayPal, or possibly phony escrow services, and you receive an official looking email that the money has been "received".
  • They "accidently" sent too much, or want you to forward the overage to a "shipper".
  • Of course, they don't care about the ITEM itself, just the forwarded money...
  • Anyone who has sold anything online is probably familar with this scam.

Help In The Past Scam

This scam is interesting, but hard to pull off in my opinion. This is the attempt by the scammer to re-kindle a failed scam. They usually start off the letter by saying..."I want to thank you for the help you rendered in the past, even though for one reason or another, we were not able to get this fund transfered, I was able to do so with a new partner. I wanted to show my appreciation so contact my secretary and he will give you a check for $750,000.00..."
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • If the scam failed the first time, why do they think they will be successful the second time?
  • For some reason, the principal is always in South America for some reason (scam is still in West Africa). They will say, "I am currently working on a project in Ecuador, contact my secretary (in Africa) for the check...".
  • I love to play dumb, i.e. "I have no idea who you or your boss is..." - amazingly, this doesn't matter. They want to give you the money no matter what you say.
  • I have cursed out scammers with every name in the book, only to have them come back and try to give me a

Assuming The Identity Scam

This isn't necessarily a type of scam, in the sense that it is more or less created by the scambaiter. Whenever I get emails in my catcher account, I will plug Yahoo Email addresses into my Scambaiting Yahoo Accounts (Debbie or Greg). I will scambait these fools via email as usual, but I will also contact them when I see them online in Yahoo (chat sessions).
    Some interesting points with this scam...
  • I will do this from my Debbie Dawson account in email. Most scammers are male, right?
  • I like to pretend it is a case of mistaken identity, that I thought I was contacting a lost love...
  • When I contact them in chat, I will call them a name that is nothing like their chat profile (my last one of these was JamesPhilip2020 - I said "Thomas, where have you been? I missed you.".
  • It's funny how fast they try to assume the role. It's funny because you control the modality, not them. You can invent whatever storyline you
  • They will usually say that they are stranded and need money (traveled to Africa for a funeral and was robbed...).

    Other various scams...

  • ATM Scams - You either won money, are getting reimbursed for past scams, or paid for past help, etc.
  • Purchase Scams - After placing an ad selling an item, scammers want to buy it, and pay more than the price (by fake check or credit card) which you have to send to someone via Western Union.
  • Hitman Scams - You are threatened by a hitman who was hired by a friend of yours - wants paid to go away...
  • Adopt-a-Pet Scams - Scammers contact you to purchase puppy that they can't care for...Price and shipping paid in advance, of course.
  • Investment Scams - Rich person wants random person from internet to help invest their millions...
  • Precious Metal Scams - Never had one of these, but scammer sells gold, silver, diamonds, etc., well below market price.
  • Seller Scams - Scammer is selling goods that you pay for in advance and never receive.

This is only a small sample of some of the scams that are out there. The truth is that the scammers will use any ploy, tactic, or tragic event (9/11, Tsunami, Earthquakes, etc.) to play on your sympathy to steal your money...

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