Scammers are horrible people who take advantage of poor, trusting people. And that's why it's great to see people turn the tables on the two-bit thieves and con artists.
A Reddit thread and Quora page both asked people to reveal how they got back at a scammer, and the answers are just as ridiculous as the scams themselves. So, what led to these people acting as agents of Karma on these wannabe thieves?
Content has been edited for clarity.
"For some time now, I take some fake money with me in my left pocket in case someone tries to rob me or something.
One day, I was going home from school, waiting for the bus. I sat down on a bench. Some shady looking guy came up to me like some old friend and said how he just lost his wife, the kids were starving, and the other usual stuff. He even had his little girl there, who he asked to hold hands with me and stuff. After his monologue, he suddenly needed five bucks for a bus ticket. I kindly helped him out from my left pocket.
Suddenly, he needed five bucks more for some other stuff. I denied that and sent him on his way. The bus came, I got in, and from the window I saw some big people throwing him out of an exchange office, probably because he tried to exchange my fake money."
"I trolled a 'Nigerian Prince' for about two months. I kept sending him emails telling him that I wanted to give him money and that I was very sorry for how he was getting duped. He would send me account numbers for Western Union, and I would send him back messages saying 'I just sent $50, God Bless you!'
When he emailed me that he never got the money, I would reply with, 'Check again! I sent it to the account.' I would have the digits off by one or two from the correct account. This went on back and forth for about a month before he realized I wasn't going to send him anything and was just messing with him."
"My social life started to decline when I got busy, so I decided to try out Tinder. I learned quickly that this app wasn't built to make friends. It was built to meet people based on physical attraction.
That's when I came across this girl. She had an unbelievable body and a bio that said 'DON'T SWIPE IF YOU THINK I'M A CATFISH' in all caps.
Here was my thought process, She's 22, lives in Georgia, loves pizza, AND... Wait... What?... That sounds kind of suspicious. No one bluntly says they aren't a Catfish unless they are a Catfish. But I wanted to see for myself, so I hit her with a creative opening line for the first message:
ME: 'Pizza! I assumed that'd get you to open the message.'
CATFISH: 'Hun, I'd open anything from you.'
We started to talk and she said, in exchange for me ordering her a pizza, she would take me on a date! Time to reel in this Catfish! I told her that I'd order her a pizza under one condition. All she had to do was FaceTime me! And then there were messages on top of messages of excuses. She eventually said, 'OK, I'll send you a video. Hold on.'
So I waited, and waited. But while I was waiting, I decided to Google image search her Tinder photos and, lo and behold, I found the REAL girl's Instagram page. Then, I got a video message from the Catfish, and it was the most fake video ever! It was a screen recording of a video from the real girl's Instagram page. But, I fed into it and acted like she'd fooled me.
I got all her information for the pizza. Went on Dominos.com, and ordered a pizza to be sent to her house (where she had to pay at the door, of course). I put hot sauce and anchovies on it."
"Some years ago, I was selling my old PS2 on eBay along with a bunch of games. It didn't sell the first time around. As I was about to re-list, I got an email. It was apparently an African pastor who said he wanted it for his orphanage. Of course, he couldn't use PayPal because 'reasons,' but he was willing to use an escrow service (that he chose, obviously), and would even give me $20 over the asking price for my trouble.
I smelled a rat right away, obviously, but I figured I would have some fun. I told him I would be happy to help out the poor African orphans. In the meantime, I re-listed and sold the PS2.
He sent me another email in which he praised my charitable spirit and said to wait for further instructions. A couple of days later, I got an email from the Royal Bank of Canada with an escrow certificate attached. Apparently, the Royal Bank of Canada had fallen on hard times and was now operating out of Nigeria using one of their local ISPs. I traced the IP address back to an internet cafe in Lagos.
Just a few hours later, another email from 'my friend' showed up. It was a pre-printed UPS label. He said to go ahead and send the PS2 and he would release the escrow as soon as it arrived. I said, sure. I got an old cardboard box out of the garage and filled it up with gravel and the remains of a crushed cinder block. It probably weighed about 35 pounds. I slapped the label on the box and had UPS come and pick it up.
My pastor friend emailed me about a few days later. He seemed very upset, for some reason. Apparently, UPS had charged him about $40 for a box of gravel sent via two-day shipping. I replied with all the IP addresses I had gathered, along with the name of the ISP and the internet cafe. I also informed him that I had sent the details of the UPS shipping account to the FBI (a lie, of course).
I thought that would be the end of it. But, lo and behold, yet another email from my Nigerian pen-pal. He was very contrite and stated that he had seen the light and was now planning to go straight, and to please not contact the authorities. I just responded with, 'Too late.'
That was the last I ever heard from him."
"I got a call from a Jamaican number claiming to be Publisher's Clearing House with my prize of $3.5 million and a 2015 Mercedes Benz. I played along for a little bit to see how the scam worked. Within the first five minutes, I asked the rep to confirm something for me. The rep immediately groaned loudly in frustration, muted me for a moment, and then hung up. Disappointed that I couldn't keep the conversation going, I went back to what I was doing before.
But then I got a call back from the original rep's supervisor. The supervisor asked what had happened during the first call and I described in vivid detail all that had happened. I took five minutes to explain a five-minute phone call. We talked about how to claim the prize and he gave me several numbers that I would need later. I wrote them all down, then repeated them incorrectly. The supervisor confirmed that I had the numbers correct. I told the supervisor that he wasn't very good at running a scam.
'If you are going to give information, at least make it consistent,' I said. 'Otherwise your credibility is garbage.' He became irate and started yelling at me about how I was so stupid and how he couldn't believe I was wasting his valuable time when all he was trying to do was give me money.
OK. Game on. I kept him on the phone for 45 minutes, getting him to explain what a birth certificate looks like, how to apply for a federal ID, how to take a bus to a Walmart in a random town I don't live in, how to fill out the transfer documentation, acceptable forms of payment, etc. etc. I would often have him explain things over and over until he was yelling at me, then I would change the subject and get the conversation back 'on course.' After 45 minutes, he told me he needed to do some paperwork and call me back in 30 minutes.
To my complete surprise, he called me 30 minutes later. He detailed the process for sending a payment and the information to give. I kept repeating all the things I needed to do, getting at least one thing wrong each time. He would correct me, explain the process again, and then ask me to tell him what I was going to do. We did this for 20 minutes.
At this time, I started getting bored with the conversation about the transfer, and tried to change the subject to various other topics. I started asking about where he was calling from, what religion he was, etc. He told me that he was not a Christian, but he believed in God and attended a Baptist Church with his mom. I started making ridiculous claims about how Baptists weren't Christians, but that I was glad he was one. He got really ticked off and started yelling at me. I calmed him down again by talking about the steps to the transfer.
Finally, I told him, 'I don't really know how anyone who believes in God would believe that what you are doing is acceptable. You are defrauding people. You are literally stealing money from vulnerable people. I don't know how you can possibly justify that.'
He began screaming 'Get bent!' over and over at the top of his lungs for about 30 seconds, and then hung up the phone. That was the most fun I'd had all week."
"I was at my parents' house one night when my mom answered a call on their landline. I perked up when I heard her say with a worried look on her face, 'My computer's infected?'
I knew immediately this was a scam call, so I told her I'd handle it and took the phone. It was a guy from India in a call center saying he was with Microsoft and I needed to follow his step-by-step instructions to clean up all the viruses on our computer (i.e. give him remote control, steal whatever info they could get, install malware, turn it into a zombie, or whatever else they do with this scam).
I hate scammers with a passion, but I was especially ticked off because my mom was getting up there in age and wasn't as sharp as she used to be and would have fallen for this had I not been there. In fact, she did fall for this exact same scam about a year ago. I had to wipe the computer and told her very plainly that no one will ever, ever call from Microsoft, or for any other internet related issue. Unfortunately, her memory isn't so hot these days.
In a very thick Indian accent, this guy told me how bad the computer was with all its viruses and infections.
'Oh, no! Really, I have viruses? How do I fix it?' I asked. He assured me he would walk me through the clean up process and I expressed my relief and gratitude. Sweet - I didn't have anything to do at the moment.
'OK, sir,' he said, 'I need you to hold down the Windows key and the R key at the same time.'
'OK, I did that,' I replied.
'Now, what do you see?'
'My computer is off now.'
'Sir, no, why is your computer off? You should see a menu. Please power the computer back on.'
I actually had turned it off so I would be able to blare the Windows log-on sound to make it convincing. Now, this was, like, an '04 PC my mom had, so the startup time was NOT exactly fast. So after a good while, I told him I was back up and ready.
'OK, sir,' he continued, 'now look at the keyboard and find the WINDOWS KEY and the 'R' KEY. Please hold these down at the same time. Now, please tell me, sir, what do you see?'
'Hmm. My computer turned off again,' I said. 'I held down the main Windows button and the 'R' key just like you told me and it turned off again. I'm sorry, I just don't know what I'm doing wrong.'
He was getting a little frustrated now. But the beauty was, I was thinking, this guy probably had to call hundreds of people before he got a sucker on the line as willing and eager as I was to remedy this particular computer problem. So, I did this cycle a full four times, each time giving him more little hints that I thought the 'Windows Key' was actually the power button. By the fourth time, I thought for sure he would get it because I was calling it something like, 'The main Windows power button on my Dell,' but, sadly, he never did figure it out. He gave up on that and moved on to try something else.
'OK, sir, forget that,' he said. 'We will try something else.' He went on to explain that we were going to do a boot-up sequence where I had to press the F8 key while the computer was booting back up. Obviously, this could not have worked out better. The chance to continually miss hitting the F8 key in time had me absolutely giddy inside. I assured him I was ready to hit the key and restart the machine.
I let it fully boot up and blare the Windows login sound again and said, 'OK! It's back on and I'm hitting the key now.' He sighed with more frustration.
'You have to do it WHILE THE COMPUTER IS STARTING BACK UP,' he explained. So, I apologized again and feigned frustration myself while holding back my unfettered delight.
The next round, he was more careful to make sure I was hitting the key during the boot-up sequence. I was punching away on the space bar key as loud as I could during the boot-up and, after a couple minutes or so, there came that beautiful Windows startup sound again and he let out an even louder, more frustrated sigh.
'SIR,' he exclaimed, 'did you hit the F8 key?'
Well, I had gotten that far, so I thought I might as well lay on another level of frustration by insulting his English: 'Yes, I was hitting the 'S' and 'H' keys the whole time! I don't know what went wrong.'
Yep, that did it.
'No, no, no, the F-8 key. The F - 8 key,' he said. 'Sir, look at your keyboard. Do you see the F8 key?'
'OH.... Oh... The F-8 key,' I said. 'Yes, I see. I'll try again.'
We sat there waiting a few more minutes. I repeated the whole process. This time, after the start-up sound I told him I hit the 'F' and '8' keys but, again, nothing happened. He was fuming at this point, but trying as hard as he could to hold it back. Right then, I heard my mom call that dinner was ready. Normally, I would have blown off dinner for something this much fun, but we had grilled out these beautiful ribeyes and I wasn't about to let mine get cold. I told him I was really sorry, I had to go to dinner, and I would have to fix it later. And with that, after this 35-minute phone call, I just hung up.
I sat at the table admiring this beautifully marbled steak and told my folks it was all a scam and I was just wasting his time. The phone rang. My mom jumped up and said, 'I got it.' In the sweetest voice, my mom said, 'I'm really sorry, but we are having family dinner at the moment and I have a rule that everyone has to sit down together.' After a moment listening to his reply, she hung up and sat back down.
'What'd he say?' I asked.
Mom replied, 'He said, "Eff your family dinner."'"
"I don't know how I'd do with scammers, but my dad has loads of stories.
He used to be a home maintenance builder - pretty successful until he retired a few years ago. Back at the start of his career, he contracted for a job repairing the siding on a large house, repairing and decorating a few interior rooms and insulating the loft, plus some sundry other stuff. He got a decorator for the job and made a start.
Things were going OK for the first week, but then the owner of the place started to make a bit of a fuss about paying. He wanted to cut the price or to have more work done without raising the price. He started asking for things to be altered against the terms of the contract and kept refusing to discuss when he would actually pay for any of it. Dad quickly cottoned on that the guy was trying to get out of paying full cost. He said he would think about the changes the chap wanted but, for now, they would finish up the work they were in the middle of.
The next Friday, he took his decorator mate down to a nearby supplies warehouse place, picked up a load of materials, and carted them back to the house while the owner was out. He unloaded them all into the garage, then gave the owner a call, and asked him to come over. He showed him the pile of stuff.
He said he would agree to do the work, but he needed money to cover all the materials he bought. The owner very reluctantly peeled open his wallet and took out a wad of cash to pay for the cost of the materials, which just happened to be about the same as the amount of money he owed for the work already done. With that over with, he went back off to wherever his work was. Dad turned to the decorator and said, 'Load it all up again before he gets back.'
First, he paid the decorator his share, paid the rest of the cash into the bank, then returned all the materials for a refund, and finally went home. On Monday, he told the owner that he was not going to do any more work for him and that he could find someone else to con."
"I worked at Subway about 12 years ago. My co-worker and I were closing up for the night and some guy came to the door with a proposition. He offered to leave his cell phone in exchange for $40. Once he was done, he'd return in less than an hour and give us our money back, plus an extra $20. We were young and stupid and we fell for it. This was the best night we'd ever seen for tips ($24 each!), so we felt like we had nothing to lose. He left us his cell phone, took our money, and never came back.
We looked up 'Home' in the contacts list of the phone, called it, and were greeted by a very angry owner demanding to know who we were and why we had his phone. We explained the situation and told him to pick it up at our store the next day.
My co-worker and I happened to have split shifts the next day, so one of us would be there no matter when the owner showed up. He came early in the morning, and my co-worker informed me about the pickup when I came in. About an hour after my shift started, a car backed up to the front of the store, out of sight of the window, and almost in the street that ran past. This seemed odd since there was no one else parked in front. A scraggly looking gentleman (not the guy from the night before) entered and told the other guy working with me that he left his phone here yesterday, and was told he could retrieve it. I said 'Oh, right! [Co-worker], go find it in the back, I have to run outside.'
As I was taking the license plate down, I noticed the driver was watching me. It was the phone thief himself! I chuckled as I walked up to his window, and said he could have the phone back, but first, I get my money back. He pulled $40 out of his wallet, which I took, and then demanded the extra $20 he promised. He refused at first, but then I reminded him that I had his plate number, and now his buddy was on camera asking for an obviously stolen piece of property. He gently handed me the extra cash by crumbling it in his fist and throwing it at me, so I smiled and told him his buddy would be back out soon.
Back inside the store, my co-worker reported that he could not find the phone anywhere. I said, 'The phone was picked up this morning by the real owner and I'm calling the police.' Scraggles ran out, jumped in the car, and they peeled off"
"I can do a fairly good impersonation of Joe Swanson from Family Guy and, typically, when a blocked or 800 service number pops up on my caller ID I answer with, 'Swanson residence. Joe speaking.' If there's no answer, I scream, 'Dang it, Bonnie!!! They always do this!!' then hang up.
However, there have been times where the scammers stick to their script and go through their spiel, which I play along with while still doing my Joe impression and I give them information as Joe. When they ask for my occupation, I say I'm a cop. When they ask what car I drive, I say I don't because I'm a paraplegic. I have it down to a routine to mess with these people and I cry with laughter after each time."
"Some recent birthday of mine, like two or three years ago, my grandmother bought me a new TV to replace the slowly dying one that I had.
At that point in my life, I had been pretty familiar with pawn shops - well, a particular one. It’s not like I had a circuit or anything. I would routinely put my Xbox or Beats headphones up as collateral for a loan to help pay bills. I never 'lost' anything to this pawn shop, but I did witness them get over on so many people as I stood in line waiting for my transactions to happen. Those places are predatory. They either kick people while they’re down or reward people that steal.
After I set up the new TV, I knew that I was gonna take the old one to the pawn shop so I could sell it. I planned on being upfront about how it works when it wants and I was going to accept whatever offer they gave me because the alternative was a landfill (something I later realized probably still happened). I packed the old TV in the packaging of the new TV and went on my way.
I approached the counter and told the employee that I wanted to sell the TV. Before I could get the TV out of the box, the employee completed his research and offered me $80. That’s an awesome offer considering I expected like… $12. After some thought, I realized that the guy offered me that amount based on the packaging of the new TV. The new TV cost my grandmother about $300. To think that I could have brought a $300 TV in and only be offered $80 ticked me off. The employee’s standoffish body language and combative tone took that emotion even further. He must have been expecting me to rip him a new one. But, hey, I didn’t have a $300 TV in the box. I had an old one that worked when it wanted.
'Sure, I’ll take 80,' I said.
The surprise on the guy’s face was subtle, but I picked up on it. There was a little more 'pep' in his conversation from that point on. He must have thought I was an idiot for accepting such a low-ball offer.
'Alright, now,' he said, 'I just need to make sure that it works.'
I forgot about that part. I began to accept that the jig was up. But the guy was so eager to get the TV, he didn’t notice that the screen was a few inches smaller than what was listed on the box, nor the fact that the brands were different.
Oh no, this might work.
I plugged the TV up and said a silent prayer to myself, hoping that the TV would turn on. It did. He flipped to a few channels, played with the volume a little. Everything appeared to be top notch. He handed me the 80 bucks and smugly told me to keep the box because they didn’t need it.
You know that part of the movie Public Enemies, where John Dillinger has plastic surgery/advanced makeover and then walks right into a police station to give himself a tour even though he was the US’s #1 fugitive? Not one cop in the whole building suspected that Dillinger was standing right next to them. I felt like Dillinger. I walked around in that pawn shop for another 15 minutes, looking at jewelry and electronics. I didn’t buy anything, but I had to bask in my accomplishment."
"In the summer of 2016, the 'IRS-is-going-to-arrest-you-for-non-payment-of-back-taxes-unless-you-pay-up-immediately' scam was afoot and doing well - especially with the uninformed elderly. I have an elderly friend who was called, the pitch was made, and after getting call-back information, she hung up and blocked the number with no further consequences. She then told me about it.
On a whim, I called the number she had been given to call and said I had just gotten a call from an IRS agent and was calling back to prevent going to jail. I am in my mid-70s myself, but I made my voice even raspier than usual, and feigned confusion, repeatedly whimpering that I did not want to go to jail and 'please, please help me.' I could just imagine the person on the other end of the line licking his chops.
I provided only the last four digits of my Social Security number. That seemed to satisfy the 'agent.' But, I gave no address and, of course, a fictitious name. When he asked how much the 'original' caller had said I owed, I figured Why not?, and went for $6,550 - a nice round (and believable) number. I was calling them, not them calling me, and they were obviously happy to have another fish on the line, even though they could not have been sure now in what lake they were trolling. I explained I had to cash in a life insurance policy to pay the debt. That pleased the 'agent' to no end, and that effort would take a while - several whiles as I dragged it out.
To make a long story short (covering two months with almost daily conversations with the 'agent' (prolonged because I was 'sick' and occasionally 'in the hospital'), after I finally had 'received the proceeds of my policy,' I was finally told to buy a large number of iTunes gift cards, while being warned not to tell the big box store cashier why I wanted so many.
I looked online for images of the IDs on the back of iTunes cards, found quite a few and, 'after scratching off the ID-covering,' eventually began to recite the IDs to the 'agent' as proof I had actually bought the cards. He had explained that once he was satisfied that I had actually bought the cards, he and I would meet to allow me to hand over the cards, and, in turn, receive an official document from the IRS showing that I had fulfilled my errant tax obligation and that I was no longer a fugitive.
A few of the IDs were good, but some were not. At that point, the 'agent' asked what I was trying to do. I then asked him what he was trying to do, and then thanked him for a grand diversion. Silence. This 'agent' was not happy, telling me I had wasted his time. I told him I was glad to have been of service."
"I managed our 'info' account at a previous job. It was the email address visible on our website, and occasionally received general inquiries or emails for someone in our company if the address wasn't known. It was also the account that received most of our spam.
One day the account received a scam email, saying that an inheritance was owed to the person named 'Info' at this account. I sarcastically responded, 'Oh, did my favorite aunt die and leave her fortune for her dear nephew, "Info"?'
To my surprise the scammer responded, addressing me as 'Info' and explaining that it was not my aunt, but that there was an unclaimed inheritance that I was eligible to collect. Astounded that this person believed my name was 'Info,' I also became very curious as to how the scam worked. At what point would I be asked for money?
So, I continued our correspondence. The man, Robert Gavin (some emails were signed Gavin Robert), was a solicitor. He had a few fake documents, such as a driver's license and registered business number. He kept me going for several weeks, telling me about the legal motions he was filing, the waiting periods that would have to occur. I kept writing back as 'Info,' a poor but earnest young man working his way through college.
When my 'money' was almost ready, he told me he'd need to see some ID to fill out some final forms. Seeing as he already thought my name was Info, my estimation for his intelligence was not high. I sent him a picture of the 'McLovin' driver's license from Superbad. To my surprise, he didn't question this at all. His only objection was that my driver's license was expired, Superbad having come out many years ago at this point.
Now operating under the name 'Info McLovin,' I was willing to put in a bit more effort. I photoshopped a fake ID with the name Info McLovin, and even put together a phony resume. My cover was almost blown when I left my address as '123 Fake Street', but I managed to convince him that was a leftover from the template and I had forgotten to change it. I listed my address as a local head shop, and my phone number to a fraud hotline.
None of this clued the guy in that Info McLovin was not entirely on the up and up. Finally, after about four weeks of correspondence, he asked me for money. Part of the rules about inheritance in the UK (he claimed) was that he had to run an ad in the newspapers for a month to see if any relatives claimed the inheritance before it could pass on to me.
My original question, 'Where does the scam come in?' was answered, but I wasn't ready for the saga of Info McLovin to end. I began putting off his request for money, saying that I couldn't afford it. I tried offering him a huge sum of money. Since I was going to inherit about 12 million pounds, I'd give him 1 million after the fact if he'd just cover the cost of the newspaper ad. That wasn't possible, sadly.
I tried deflecting him by expressing doubts about his credentials, enraging him into asking if Info McLovin had ever gone to high school. Finally, after six weeks of back and forth emails, I couldn't string him along any more and he was about to give up on me, so I told him the truth and sent him a link to the McLovin fake ID scene from Superbad.
Robert Gavin (Gavin Robert) informed me in all caps that I was a 'loser' and the saga of Info McLovin ended."
"I buy and sell cars every so often. I use Craigslist because it is free and effective. Unfortunately, you always get scammers in God knows what country that try to 1) get your PayPal info and scam you, or 2) mail you a fake check and get you to send the excessive amount back to them. The check bounces and you are out all the money.
So, one day, I had some time on my hands and decided to play along with this scammer. They always communicate via text or email. There is never a credible number to call back. I tried to waste his time by asking a LOT of questions.
The car was selling for $16,000 and he was going to send $19,000 by 'mistake' and asked that I just send the $3,000 back to him. I agreed and kept in daily touch with him on the details. The beauty here is that, in his mind, he had a payday coming! Most likely he was in an impoverished country and $1 would go a long way there. If these guys get one scam every three months, they are doing well.
Every day, I thanked him and told him how much this would help me and my family and my special needs child. So, he sent the check to a fake address I gave him and asked if I received it. I thanked him for sending the check. He asked that I send the money back immediately. At this point, we had been communicating for at least two weeks. I acted like I had the check and told him that I REALLY needed a new TV and if it was OK that I used the extra money for that instead.
He started to get angry and demand that I send it back. I kept him going for a few hours promising him that I would pay him back. Eventually, he lost his cool and got nasty with me. I finally apologized and said that I would send him the money. He gave me the numbers I needed to send it electronically and I confirmed that he was at the store to pick up his money. This went on for another hour as I kept asking him to check and see if the money arrived. So, not only was his appetite wet, he was at the store waiting on his payout. I finally told him I knew from the beginning that he was a scammer and that I enjoyed wasting his time and playing with his emotions.
He said, 'You stupid piece of garbage.'
It was petty, but it felt great. I know it ruined his day as he was expecting a payout for at least two weeks."