514 – Delayed Questification: 01


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A few weeks ago, (from when this goes online) Lena got an email from one Miss Becky Koulibaly of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in West Africa. Lena found the email amusing, so she forwarded it to me.

I decided to do a little research on how the types of email scams actually work, thinking it might be an interesting subject for a blog. I found something even more promising with the discovery of scambaiting.

Basically scambaiting is just replying to these people and getting them to waste their energies on you… while providing yourself with a little fun. It takes a bit of caution, as apparently some of these people have confederates stateside who could pay you a visit, and really I’d like to go on the record as not recommending that you do this.

Still, I am less smart than I am easily entertained, so after taking a few precautions, I sent out my reply to Lena’s email. I sent it from a different person than her, and from a different address, but it didn’t matter. Within an hour I had my first reply. Ironically it came from a different email address than the one I had sent to, as did the next two before they finally wised up and cut me off.

So, for the rest of the week, I will be relating my correspondences with young Miss Koulibaly of Côte d’Ivoire. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!


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25 Responses to 514 – Delayed Questification: 01

  1. the last one of those i got i sent back “stop sending me this shit im not going to give you money” then i gave them a resounding F*^K OFF in the subject line. they havent written again. i love being an asshole

    oh and kevin when byron draws you the pic of jeff and bunker playing guiter please post it id like to see it.i think it would be very cool

  2. Hmm… interesting question, how would I secure this sort of thing?
    To secure this sort of action you need to respond to them using a remote email server with false or absent ID info which you don’t mind being attacked, configure that server to not log your own IP, MAC or anything else unique–or anything else before you’ve set it into trap-mode, log into that server through a rotating cloud of proxies which frequently vary their IP numbers and are themselves hard to track or identify a commonality of, encrypt all your outgoing packets through a one-time-pad solution (which allows continuing authentication while your traffic to the server looks like a DDoS attack), and a one-way switch to trap mode that deletes the remaining code pad and sets the server up to begin traffic analysis and honeypot security measures once you’ve sent each response.
    The only way to retrieve logs and reset this server remotely is through a local representative–if you could do it again from HQ then it’s not secure enough. (If you’re in the same country as the remote server it’s probably not far enough away either.)
    Through diligent analysis lasting past a number of server resets and identifiable server characteristic sets (MAC address is probably something a diligent, technically inclined botnet maintainer will try to look up if they notice the pattern), you can map out how the heck they’re sending the replies–including probably mapping out a chunk of a zombie network since that’s one of the more common solutions for sending spam these days. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if for some spammers this netted you a partial-map of TOR.
    Spammer techniques which are older than this are already generally obsolete (in part since very extensive lists of known major spam originators exist and there are some choices available).

    • 😮 Well, I…. had heard some of those technical terms before. But “zombie network” was a new one. Sounds funky. Rather self-explanatory, too.

      Um, a.c., can I save your little dissertation for future reference? Just in case I ever write a Shadowrun novel with a system admin or hacker in it and need some authentic-sounding techspeak? I mean, I have a couple engineers and programmers among my friends, but the poetic part of my brain loves the “rotating cloud of proxies” line.

      • (Wait, what the heck happened to my avatar picture? I must’ve misspelled the e-mail address. The new creature looks cool, though.)

      • Alright, not everybody here keeps up with Ars Technica, forgive me for talking like a Slashdotter please….

        You may have heard of (or remember having to clean up after) computer worms like MyDoom, Sasser, and Zobtob. One which definitely made the news was ILOVEYOU for anybody’s family who doesn’t use computers often enough to know this stuff. These are bits of executable code that try to get onto your computer and send themselves onto other computers from your computer to take over as many as possible. Once on your system a worm may do all kinds of things besides trying to infect other computers and things worms have done in the past include wiping your hard drive, stashing the cracker’s porn on your computer, DDoS attacks, more, and sometimes nothing at all.
        In earlier days the people who put out computer worms generally made them for simple vandalism and/or showing-off purposes but most of the recent serious worm attacks have had a mercenary aim: To take over your computer so that a cracker can use it. Once they’ve done so the technical term “zombie” applies, meaning a computer which has been taken over for use by a remote cracker that the user has no relationship to, and if sufficiently unaware of the internals of their computer (“Why is this so slow all of a sudden? It took only 5 seconds yesterday.”) the user may be totally unaware their computer has been compromised.
        For a decade approximately the people who took over computers with zombies have been using them to launch DDoS attacks, Distributed Denial of Service, where they get their “zombie” computers to send lots of junk traffic at a target to use up all its bandwidth. With commercial and banking sites this has been done unknown numbers of times to extort money from the owners.
        A couple years ago something really ugly and disgusting happened: People running zombie networks started selling their services to each other and spammers, so now it’s very likely that spam being sent at you was sent from a regular home user’s computer where the user doesn’t even know what’s happening.

        Regarding tech-sounding jargon, there’s lots of places to go to read interesting things that explain a lot of the jargon. Slashdot is amongst the easiest to read of them all, and it’s known to have numerous good comments on its articles in the users section (they’ve got a refined comment rating system): http://slashdot.org/
        Others include The Register (UK publication), Kuro5hin, and Ars Technica, all of which should be easy to find on a google search and have served to inform me of a lot of this stuff.
        The aticles in such places will vary between readable English and advanced jargon depending on the topic, writer and level of the article.

      • Smart, maybe.
        Spent way too much time being paid to do the impossible by the technically clueless, definitely.

  3. Is Bunker gonna bang that witch? Oh man I hope so. I’ve been drawing her in school and I’m getting pretty good. My friends think she’s smoking and they don’t even read HOLE.

  4. Have you been on Ebola Monkey? The guy makes elaborate characters and situations and the exchanges are long and hilarious.

    In one of them, the scammer tries to get the guy to steal money from a child with a terminal illness (make-a-wish foundation).

  5. Re: the comic: That last line is probably my favourite for a while. How many times have you seen someone in a comic/film just decide to help because they were plot critical did something to inconvenience the main players and then felt obliged to help.

    Re: the blog: a friend of mine runs a company which deals with offshore tax and company administration. He used to reply to these, and occasionally got a response. Very occasionally he would actually meet the people involved and took the opportunity to humiliate them.

    In addition, I think that you should take the opportunity to do the… thing… that a.h. said about. The one that I understood every word about.


  6. A couple of years ago I heard about scambaiting. My favorite stories involved the scambaiters actually getting the scammers to send them money “in good faith.” For more on scambaiting, visit 419eater.com. The trophy wall is especially fun – it’s photos the scambaiters got the scammers to pose for and send to them via email.

  7. “I meant to say no.” Ha ha ha! 😆

    That was great. I really like Rose already, and not just because she zapped Enkidu. I like all your female characters. (Even the old Fleece’s, who were way too girly for rough and tumble D&D types! 😛 )

    Did you give the email scam people any money? Oh, I should wait and see. LOL!

  8. That’s a good way to get your email address on an active spam list. If you respond to them, they know you’re using that address, and they can sell it off to other spammers. There’s a whole black market for this sort of thing.

  9. Ooo! THe witch is named Rose, eh? I’ll have to play on that over at 1977… maybe Rose and Lily are relatives of Bewitched’s Samantha! hmmm… And Rose is a redhead too… I didn’t think of that! Rose is a cool character too… bring it on! 🙂

    I was told YEARS ago that most of the spam mail is to get you to reply so they can verify you’re real. I just delete the damn things… except the male enhancement ones… those work… trust me… 🙂