Quoted in the Boston Phoenix


Mike Miliard at the Boston Phoenix recently wrote a piece about the practice of scam-baiting, wasting the time of those largely Nigerian Internet scammers who try to get your bank account info by telling you some relative had to flee the country and needs you to help get the funds. Even though Mike works for the competing paper to the Dig (carries my column), I spent some time on the phone with him.

The main point of the story is similar to one written in the Atlantic recently: that the baiting tactics of those fighting the scammers (such as 419eater.com) often have the feel of extreme humiliation and racism. Joe Keohane of Boston Magazine points out, "I'm of the mind that when someone tries to steal your life savings and you have no legal recourse to speak of, you’re well within your rights to humiliate them as badly as you see fit."

I mostly agree with that. After all, I call myself a "vigilante pundit" so I can't be against all forms of vigilanteism. There are, however, some though I talked to Miliard about a bunch of other points, including:
  • the unavoidably racist appearance of a bunch of black people on a website, essentially branded with the techie version of the phrase "owned"
  • the perverse Robin Hood-ish justice that a poor African nation is redistributing a tiny piece of global wealth with scams like these
  • my admiration for the scam-baiters who tie the hands of scammers and keep them from hurting generous, if naive, people
  • and more ish