Attempt to troll Nigerian Prince scammers fails

October 17, 2019 — by Justin Guo and Michael Wong

Inspired by a TED Talk, reporters desperately try to get scammed on purpose but somehow can’t manage to

It’s a universal truth that people don’t like getting spam mail. More horrifying is the idea of getting scammed out of sensitive personal information or money.

But the two of us, inspired by James Veitch’s hilarious TED Talk, “This is what happens when you reply to spam email” — where Veitch walks his audience through purposefully replying to and trolling an email scammer — decided that we wanted to do something similar.

As eager as we were to get scammed, we weren’t dumb enough to use our personal email accounts: We needed an alias. That presented our first challenge.

It turns out that Google and Yahoo prefer not to have a bunch of bot accounts, as their email signup form includes a field for phone verification.

Their systems thwarted our attempts at deception, too. We tried using burner phone numbers that we had found on free SMS websites, but they kept getting rejected.

In the end, we found our lifeline in Microsoft’s great Hotmail system. And thus, Mrs. Karen Hutchinson, born in 1955, came to life. 

Then came the next and puzzlingly hardest part of this whole idea: actually getting scammed.

Unfortunately, new accounts aren’t usually targeted by spam emails. If we had had the time to create a few primitive social media accounts to type innocuous comments on random posts, then maybe there would have been some juicy and worthwhile spam patiently waiting in our DMs.

But for the sake of the story, we had to get our email widely known across the Internet as fast as possible. 

So we went on a rampage, scouring the internet for any and all obvious scam sites promoting free iPhones, online sweepstakes and anything in between. 

It didn’t take long for the spam mail to start rolling in, and once the scammers got going, they didn’t let up. Over five days, we received more than 50 emails from various sites, some claiming that they developed a successful pill for better dieting and others offering free quotes on home insurance. 

Unfortunately, we never got the one email that we were so desperately hoping for: the classic Nigerian Prince scam, where the perpetrator promises the victim a portion of a large sum of money that can only be acquired after an initial payment by the victim. 

We wanted this type of scam to pop up in Karen’s inbox so we could be involved with an actual person; all the other obvious scam mail we got was automated, simply requiring us to click on a link.

Disappointed but not discouraged, we signed up for a few more sketchy websites and waited a few days longer in hopes of attracting the attention of a Nigerian Prince scam. Sadly, it never came.

That wasn’t even the most heartbreaking part of our journey: as it turns out, Microsoft’s Hotmail system, just like those of Google and Yahoo, also requires a phone verification — it just asks for one week after the creation of a new account.

For anyone with a valid phone number who wants to carry on Karen Hutchinson’s legacy, the address is and the password is “dontstealmy401k.” Good luck! 


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