Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ted Talk Review James Veitch: This is what happens when you reply to spam email

Ted Talk Review James Veitch: This is what happens when you reply to spam email

Who: Jame Veitch Bio

Title: This is what happens when you reply to spam email

Watch it: TedGlobal Geneva  (


Length: 9:48

43 Subtitle Languages

Related Book:
James Veitch Dot Con: The Art of Scamming a Scammer

Related Ted Talk Reviews: 
Ben Goldacre: Battling Bad Science
Michael Shermer: Why people believe weird things

Review: James Veitch: This is what happens when you reply to spam email

While not exactly a science talk, James Veitch's 2015 Ted Talk is a humorous look a the world of online scammers. James Veitch is a British comedian and writer who turned the table on some would be online scammers by replying to their emails. Scam emails have become so common place they mostly fade into the background of our daily digital lives. The absurdity of their proposals and their poor grammar are good for the occasional chuckle but rarely do they cause us to take action. James Veitch takes it to the next level and does something we probably have all thought about doing at some point, he emailed them back.  What happened next was a hilarious trolling of an email scammer. The scammers, clearly desperate for a victim, engaged in a back and forth conversation that quickly escalated into absurdity. Soon they were using code words such as "Giant Gummy Lizard" and falling right into a scam themselves. There was some laugh out loud moments in James's responses to "Solomon" the online scammer that make this talk feel a bit like a stand-up comedy show (in a good way).

So what is the point of poking fun at these scammers? Part of it is certainly a comedian seeing an opportunity to get a few laughs, but there was a greater purpose at work here. The point of "scamming the scammers" was to waste their time as much as possible to hopefully prevent them from reaching and interacting with people that could possibly fall for their scam. In terms of combatting email scammers, I think this is probably the most effective method of prevention. Shutting down their accounts and trying to track these scammers is a mostly fruitless endeavor. Overall this is a wonderful, funny Ted Talk about a comedian trolling a scammer and hopefully doing a little good in the world.

So why review this talk on a science blog? Scammers, swindlers, and frauds have always been around in one form or another. They permeate every field looking for an opportunity to make a quick buck.  James Veitch's revealed that a great weapon against a scammer is a little bit of humor.  I think this concept carries over to flat earthers, climate change deniers, and all types of agitators. Instead of getting mad, trying to correct them, or giving them "the facts", maybe trying to use a bit humor might be more effective. Who knows maybe it will help, and at the very least it will
waste their time and prevent them from spreading disinformation to the more vulnerable members of society.

For more information check out James Veitch's book: Dot Con: The Art of Scamming a Scammer


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