If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1
You may or may not be familiar with the famous passage spoken by Shakespeare’s Shylock, but there’s one thing we know for sure: there’s a scam artist out there who’s definitely familiar with the words, thanks to the hard work of Edd Joseph.
We’ve all heard the story before. Some of us have even fallen victim to it. In the Internet age, scammers and less than honorable folks can easily take advantage of others, and the sad fact is, there’s nothing that can be done about it. You purchase something, putting trust in others that they’re being honest and will fulfill their side of the bargain, assuming you fulfill yours. But there are many out there who simply aren’t honorable.
Last fall, for example, when Sony launched its next generation Playstation 4, and Microsoft followed suit with the XBox One, scammers preyed on the innocent by offering up a picture or an empty box for the full price of the unit. People who were anxious to get a console ahead of Christmas were out significant bucks and nothing to show for it, and the scammers perhaps slept soundly in the twisted belief that they did nothing wrong. The victims should have read the fine print.
And then there are others who simply don’t play those games. They just post items for sale and expect poor trusting souls to bite. Such is the case for the aforementioned Mr. Joseph, a graphic designer who thought he was purchasing a PS3 console for £80 (about $132 USD). Mr. Joseph ‘purchased’ the item off Gumtree, a UK website similar to Craig’s List. He sent the ‘seller’ a direct bank transfer, but Mr. Joseph was the victim of a scam and never received the goods. The Telegraph reports that Joseph “complained to the police who said his chances of catching the crook were slim, and Gumtree who said bank transfers were against its terms and conditions.”
Mr. Joseph explained to the Telegraph that he was understandably annoyed. “I was trying to think of ways of being more in the position of power because I felt so helpless about it. My first thought was that I could try and pretend I had found out where he lived but it was all a bit of a cliche and it wasn’t going to worry him really.”
Now, most victims might take it sitting down. A lesson learned and a cautionary tale to take into the future. But Mr. Joseph took matters into his own hands. “It just occurred to me you can copy and paste things from the internet and into a text message. It got me thinking, ‘what can I sent to him’ which turned to ‘what is a really long book’, which ended with me sending him Macbeth.”
He didn’t stop there, however. Surprisingly, a smartphone (in this case, an iPhone) can be a very efficient spamming device. “Despite the length of the text, he only has to press ‘send’ once for each play and his phone then processes them into individual texts. His unlimited texts and calls package with O2 at £37 (about $61 USD) a month means he does not have to pay excessive charges for the multiple messages.”
Joseph started sending the spam texts last week and “throughout the weekend – often at night to cause maximum disruption. The average Shakespeare play – at 22,600 words – will be delivered in an annoying 792 texts to his rival’s phone.” The longest play – Hamlet – took 1,143 text messages.
Satisfyingly, the scammer responded to Mr. Joseph’s missives. Joseph began to receive abusive replies from the scammer. “He has taken to calling me and giving me abuse on the phone. I tried to ask him if he was enjoying the plays, but he was very confused.” Defiant, and understandably so, Joseph isn’t going to stop. “I’m going to keep doing it. If nothing else I’m sharing a little bit of culture with someone who probably doesn’t have much experience of it.”
Now, we don’t want to give you any ideas. We do not condone spamming of any kind, regardless of the reason or cause; but in this instance, it’s difficult to feel sorry for the recipient, and sometimes, revenge can be sweet, especially if it involves the Bard.