Monday, December 20, 2010

Using my DM skills for "good"?

This is an odd post to write because it's not as much about gaming as it is about the exercise of my skills in creating alternate realities and fantasies that are consistent that other people can "exist" in. In our hobby, it's called DM/GM/World building skills. From someone else's perspective, it could be called the art of bullshitting or con-artist.

Which is where this post gets to.

We all get spam. We all get those funny letters that start off with "HELLO DEAREST" and proceed to tell us how about some bigwig somewhere died and left a trunk full of cash and all we have to do is agree to help this person and we'll get a big fat check. About 2 emails into the deal, we're asked to send $500, or $1000 or something to help with "demurrage" or "document fees" or "security certifications" or some other shit.

Or we'll get emails telling us this woman is a refugee in Sudan, or that gent is a lonely US soldier in Iraq that just stumbled onto Saddam's lost palace... or the worst, where an older relative is taken in by a supposed relative who is stuck in Greece and needs bail money and surely you remember me, the fourth cousin of your brother's father-in-law's niece's nephew?

Yea. Those fuckers. These con-artists who send these kinds of scam letters can teach us GMs a thing or two because they spin their shit daily just over the Internet or phone or IM and they rake in millions! Don't believe me? Go read it for yourself. Yea, they're getting paid to spin fantasies, but it's loot from preying on victims.

This Halloween, I'd had enough.

I have been reading about the reverse-419 tricks played by people who call themselves "baiters." They "bait" the scammer (aka "lads") into believing they are for real, that they can be duped and they have money. Baiters use a wide variety of tricks, techniques and traps. They take advantage of cultural differences. They use the power of the Internet against these scammers much as the scammers use it against their victims. The results can be hilarious - ranging from silly photos and videos ("trophies") to more interesting results - lads getting tattoos, or going on trips to try and find the baiters ("safaris") to even scaring the lads into fleeing their country.

Vigilantism, to be sure, but when the US Govt won't do anything under a fraud of $50,000 and the Nigerian police are often in cahoots with the lads, it's one of those deals where you decide which side of the line you want to stand on. I should also note that there are lads/ladettes in all countries in the world - but predominantly in Africa/Russia/India/Indonesia.

So I've been baiting a lad since October and I can honestly say that my DM/GM techniques worked to lure him into my story. Have a plot/idea of your end goal and how to get there. Get the scammer to buy into your "world" and even contribute to it. Give the scammer some rewards but always be one step ahead. Make your world consistent. Use tools around you to present the situation as if it were real.

The lad presented himself as a young woman who is studying in Nigeria and is being held hostage by an evil hotel manager who has seized her passport/airline ticket so she could pay her bill. Yea. Likely story. The story I concocted is hilarious: I'm the president of a porta-potty company. I am the possible recipient of a vast fortune of money. However, to fulfill my parents' wishes (who are both dead) my brother and I must compete for the money by seeing who can have the most heirs in 25 years. He has 8 sons. I must have 9. I had to spin a consistent story between 3 NPCs (the main character, his brother and a lawyer) and keep track of where each was.

At the end of the day, I had my lad give me a trophy of him holding a picture saying "I love BoN'ers". Yea, y'uck, y'uck... "I love boners"... but I also wasted his time, hopefully his money to pay for Internet cafe charges and maybe kept him busy enough to not scam someone else. (The BoN'ers is a nod to the social networking site where he first contacted me - My mc buddies are having a good laugh at this.)

Here's my lad - aka Adebisi Kehinde:

Yea, he's real and that's his name - I know this because he used it so that I could send him money via Western Union. I have a couple of other pictures that are consistent to where I'm 99% sure this is the guy. That's the face of a criminal and someone who wants to steal your money and your relative's money. For him, I have no pity or feelings other than anger and scorn.

And one other thing. Please, please, please... tell this story to others. Sure, have a good laugh at the Nigerian crook who got double-crossed into holding up a humiliating sign - but the real story is that these guys are organized, ruthless, without pity and they will do whatever they can to con people into sending them money. AND IT WORKS! Go to if you don't believe me - it's heartbreaking to read of people duped. And it'll piss you off.

Education is the key to keeping him and other criminals like him away from your friends and loved ones. I hope this little story helps in that regards.

So you never know where your DM/GM skills are useful. Am I using them for good? I dunno, but I'm satisfied in the end.


JDJarvis said...

What I find amusing is the perp couldn't keep his own story straight: where did the woman held hostage by the hotel manager go?

I got a letter from one of these jokers about 20 years ago. For a while I displayed it in my office , I've lost it in recent years. I hope the son of the exiled prince is safe and was able to get his affairs in order without my banking information.

Zak Sabbath said...

Oh my god, that's beautiful.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@JDJarvis - that was the supposed hotel manager in the photograph, so my lad kept the story. I have another picture that was supposedly "Kate" in front of the university... it's one of the worst photoshop pictures EVAR! I've put this out on my livejournal if you'd like to read the whole series:

@Zak - thank you for the compliment! Much appreciated :) Pass the word, these fuckers are scum, but damn good at what they do.

Timothy S. Brannan said...


Hats off to you sir! And I take certain pride in the fact that you are a fellow Chicago guy and frequenter of Games Plus.

Higgipedia said...

This is glorious.

Kevin Mac said...

Haw haw - fucking awesome! I got a boner just from reading this. God bless you.

John Matthew Stater said...

Well done sir!

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

Thank you kindly!

Malcadon said...

\,,/_ LUZ!!! _\,,/

Good work man! Hats off to you!

Erin Smale said...

I am an American student studying abroad and am being forced to run a D&D campaign for everyone staying at an Austrian hostel. Please send D&D books, minis, and dice...

Chgowiz - this is a master stroke. Truly inspired.

Patrick W. Rollens said...

You had a good run mocking this guy. Perhaps there's an opportunity now to donate to a charity or nonprofit that does economic development work in Africa?

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@Patrick - although it is tricky and not recommended, I do know some baiters that have indeed conned money out of the scammers and donated that money to charity - a karmic use of money that was most likely ill-gotten.