Cyber Heroism

I was killing time in Barnes and Noble this evening browsing through the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly (why I ever let my subscription expire I don’t know…I’ve held a long and passionate love affair with this magazine) and this article caught my eye (you’ll have to pick up the print issue to read the full article…it’s well worth it, trust me…I rolled in laughter). Rosenbaum has discovered a group of counter-scammers, if you will, who turn the tables on email scammers with some elaborate plots of their own. His descriptions of the “trophy room” contents on the counter-spammers’ website left me…well, laughter is an exaggeration, but certainly with a satisfied smile on my face. The original spammers…those who initiate the emails that cause many less-than-wise among us to unwittingly part with substantial sums of money and often enter financial ruin…essentially become the victims of the skillfully crafted plots of the counter scammers, referred to in the article as “scam-baiters.”

Rosenbaum expresses concern about the mean-spirited nature of some of the more humiliating plots that the scam-baiters draw those unsavory types into (make sure and read about some of the signs that people were caught holding while photos were taken), and toys with the idea that they are cyber-vigilantes. The scammers are never brought to conventional justice, but are at worst embarrassed, and at best tied up with elaborate hoaxes and therefore not spending time sending email spam to draw more unwitting victims into their traps. Essentially, Rosenbaum concludes that these “scam-baiters” have gone too far, and reports instances where there has even been physical violence.

While I don’t condone physical violence, I have to say, though, that I love this. The bad guys left with egg on their faces by cyberspace superheroes? Who could ask for anything better? For those of us who hate being bothered by ignorant wastes of time and ridiculous amounts of spam that no filter can completely take care of, this is the greatest thing since the “do not call” list.

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