Shelf Life

Internet crooks beat at their own game

Marketplace Staff Oct 26, 2009
Shelf Life

Internet crooks beat at their own game

Marketplace Staff Oct 26, 2009


Stacey Vanek-Smith: They say a sucker is born every minute. And it seems like you could also say the same thing about Internet scams. Whether it’s a Nigerian prince whose funds are tied up in an offshore bank, or a major cash prize you’ve won that requires you to set up a pricey account. Internet scamsters are always coming up with clever new ways to part us from our money. Well, one woman decided to give as good as she got. Diana Grove is the author of “Dot.Conned.” Hi Diana. Thanks for joining us.

Diana Grove: Thank you so much.

Vanek-Smith: So how’d you get started?

Grove: Well I was selling something online and I got a response from overseas with a lot of fishy wording, a lot of misspellings, and it didn’t take me long to figure out I was involved in an Internet scam. So I decided, well, you know, two can play at that game. I think I’m just going to con this guy back.

Vanek-Smith: I mean you had someone agreeing to marry you.

Grove: I did, yes.

Vanek-Smith: You were a ventriloquist, a taxidermist, a coal miner, a metaphysical accountant. How did you come up with these characters?

Grove: Well, you know I live in New Orleans so all you have to do is go for a walk, and you meet these bizarre characters, and you’re constantly filled with inspiration.

Vanek-Smith: Do we know where most of these cons come from?

Grove: A lot of these cons come from Nigeria, China and the U.K. The Internet Crime Complaint Center claims that last year we lost over $260 million in Internet fraud. And actually it’s Nigeria’s largest export, so the Nigerian government is not necessarily trying to shut this down because it’s what pays the bills.

Vanek-Smith: What sort of surprised me, and I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me, but there are real people behind these scams. I mean you were engaging with them for a long time.

Grove: Oh yeah, these guys are just normal guys. They’re not any different than say, telemarketers or people that work for the phone company or the insurance company. I mean they were such hard workers, and they were so polite and I could always rely on them. Their emails would always be there for me in the morning. Sure, they’re trying to con me out of my money everyday. But there’s a certain consistency level there, and there’s a comfort level in consistency.

Vanek-Smith: They were very consistent. It seemed like the cons often followed a similar trajectory.

Grove: Well yeah, these cons are not new. These are classic, fraud schemes. The only thing new is the medium, the Internet. And there are investment cons, there are inheritance cons. You know, if you’re trying to sell something, there are rental cons.

Vanek-Smith: You won the Irish lottery?

Grove: I did win the Irish lottery.

Vanek-Smith: Congratulations!

Grove: Thank you. I don’t even know if there is an Irish lottery, but certainly a lot of people think there are because a lot of very smart people fall for this stuff.

Vanek-Smith: Diana Grove is a humorist and the author of “Dot.Conned” Diana, thank you so much for talking with us.

Grove: Thank you.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.