According to, scambaiting is “…the practice of pretending to fall for fraudulent online schemes in order to waste the time of the perpetrators.” Basically, a scambaiter acts as though they were naive, gullible, even stupid, in order to get the scammer to spend a great deal of time accomplishing nothing. Somehow this feels satisfying, turning the tables on scammers who try to defraud people of their hard-earned money.

I have enjoyed several YouTube videos that show the process of a scambaiter frustrating a potential scammer. Some of the scenarios they pretend to go through are amusing. It’s hard to feel too sorry for someone who is basically stealing. There are, however, several issues that many people overlook.

First, many scambaiterss actually do turn the tables on the scammers. The scammers try to infect a victim’s computer with software that will upload all their sensitive information to the scammer’s call center. The scambaiters do the same – they upload malware that divulges the sensitive data of the scammer’s computer. Often it also deletes the scammer’s files. This is illegal.

Sure, they’re robbing the robbers, but it’s still illegal. They could be arrested and punished, even imprisoned. I think it would be difficult to convince a jury that the scambaiters were criminals. I wouldn’t care to have to go to court, though. Just hiring a lawyer could take a lot of money I could use for more pleasant things.

Something else that people overlook is that you’re screwing around with a criminal enterprise. You have no idea who is behind it. Yes, it always seems to be a call center in India, but who runs those? Mess around with the wrong people and bad things could happen to you. I live in Chicago, where it’s entirely possible for someone to “slip on some ice” even in August.

Probably you aren’t really going to face enforcers from an organized crime group, but you are still playing with fire. The workers in the call centers may be relatively naive about software, but there are probably competent programmers who could turn the tables on the scambaiters. They might be better at it than you are.

Also, the people running the scams are probably way down the ladder, the unfortunate drudges who must do this unpleasant work. Possibly they can’t find better work. They’re trying to make some money. They surely aren’t getting the bulk of the money they scam. They’re mostly the ones who will be hurt by scambaiting.

The justification that tying up a scammer saves a potential victim is a little weak. Yes, it may possibly do that. But honestly this is like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon. It doesn’t help in any meaningful way. It is a source of amusement, and it sometimes feels like we’re fighting back, but honestly we’re just doing the same thing the scammers are doing – lying to people. Of course we’re righteous and they’re infidels, but are we all that much better?

This entry was posted in Social Commentary. Bookmark the permalink.