Nigerian Baiter

Reporter: Damien Hansen

Nigerian conmen are behind the scams that cost Australians thousands of dollars every day. Tonight we can reveal the vigilante movement that's turning the tables on these artists of deceit, making fools out of criminals and publicly humiliating them for their cyber crimes. "I'm half a world a way but you don't know where these tentacles reach out", said "Mr. C", a scam baiter.

The tentacles he's talking about is the network of a quarter of a million Nigerian based advance fee crime gangs. "I'm making a difference, I'm wasting their time, I'm making them do stupid things for their money and they're not getting their money -- it doesn't exist", he said. Mr C replies to and feigns interest in the scam emails we've all received -- he doesn't fall for their lies but they fall for his.

Scam baiting is a form of internet vigilantism and Mr C is arguably Australia's best baiter. A builder by day, by night he's the Reverend Brock Peterson -- the founder of the Holy Prophet Church, a fictional organisation offering grants to followers willing to spread his word. He operates from the official unofficial website of the church. "They actually live in a fantasy land themselves where they bend the truth and tell people all sorts of lies to get them to do what they want. I'm just reversing that process and getting them to do it my way", Mr. C said.He deliberately registers in internet guestrooms which the scammers use to find their victims, then waits for the hundreds of offers of easy cash from scammers.They think they're setting him up to send funds from his fictional church and that's exactly what he wants. "I get at least five new recruits a day", Mr. C said.

Scam baiters call them trophies or lads and Mr C has hundreds of them who he's instructed to travel across Africa. Lads spend thousands of dollars travelling to the fictitious cash pick up points. Scambaiters call them safaris and some lads are send so far away, they've been unable to pay for their cab fare so they've been imprisoned -- some are left homeless. Each lad is given a phrase to be photographed with as a proof of life and Mr C has cut a video clip together with just some of his hapless trophies. Photos and seeing potential con artists do humiliating things, are what drives scam baiters to do what they do -- it's the thrill of the bait, the philosophy is if they're wasting their time talking to a scam baiter, they're not concentrating on scamming you.

"Some of these scam baiters are very skilled people and they understand some of the risks, but it doesn't mean the crooks don't either. Detective Superintendent Brian Hay is one of the countries foremost authorities on advance fee fraud. "We've had people locked up and we've had money recovered", he said. But he doesn't support scambaiters or their online vigilantism. "We don't want people putting themselves at risk, putting their families at risk, for what they think is a just cause", he said. Mr C says they get what they deserve.

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