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Bait-a-Scammer Today 16 September 2002 Edition
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The Net, being a medium heavily reliant on computers, has always been associated with gaming to some degree.

Way back in the "olden days" of the Net, "online gaming" was just another name for playing chess by email -- but more recently the whole virtual arena has become far more sophisticated and prolific.

Now you can play any number of highly graphic arcade-like games which, thanks to the Net, allow you to interact in realtime with dozens, or even hundreds of other players all around the world.

It will probably come as no surprise therefore to learn that a new game craze is sweeping the Net. What will surprise you however, is that this game owes more to the old chess-by-email scenario than it does to anything from the shoot-em-up genre.

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So far this game hasn't actually been given a name -- but I think we'll call it "bait-a-scammer" and here's how it's played.

When Dr Aba Ngkomo (or whatever alias is being used today) from Nigeria sends you one of his "CONFIDENTIAL" emails the game begins.

The first thing you'll note is that due to tragic mismanagement over many years, there is a chronic shortage of lower-case alpha characters in Nigeria so most of the emails sent by Dr Aba Ngkomo will be typed entirely in capitals.

The goal of the game is to convince the Nigerian scammer that you really are interested in their "CONFIDENTIAL" offer to smuggle a large amount of gold or US cash out of the country for a sizeable commission.

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Your score is calculated not only by the number of emails you manage to exchange before you tire or before the scammer catches on to the fact that you're just playing with them -- but also on the level of stupidity you can to get them to display.

Extra points are awarded if you're able to slip the name of your favourite Star Trek character into the email exchange with bonus points earned if you can get an actual candid picture of the scamsters. Get them to send you money (one really player did) and your score is tripled.

Regular readers may recall that I played this game a while back with limited success. Unfortunately, not having much time for computer games, I didn't score particularly highly and gave up after a couple of weeks.

However, there are some experts at this game who have documented their own efforts on the web -- and many of them will have you in tears of laughter and gasping with amazement.

My personal favourite example, and surely the overall winner, must be the game documented on this page where the player actually managed to get the Nigerian scammers to send him US$3. You must read right to the end if you are to wet your pants (I did).

Runner-up has to be The Adventures of Wendy Willcox where the player really used their intelligence and even recruited a webcam to snap pictures of the scamsters from half a world away.

There are plenty of other players who have published a log of their games on the Web and this page contains a nice list of links to follow.

So, next time one of those kind Nigerians with a broken caps-lock key sends you an email, don't just delete it, shout "GAME ON" a the top of your voice and join the action.

If enough people do this then maybe the scammers will give up.

If you want to have your say on the contents of today's column then please do so. Only comments marked "For Publication" will (if I have time) be published in the reader's comments section.

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