DCSIMG

The spam busters

THE swindlers who bombard us with e- mail spam scams didn’t know what they were taking on when they began corresponding with Bob Servant. The fictional creation of Scottish writer Neil Forsyth, Servant ran rings around so- called African lawyers, lonely Russian women and Nigerian tribal chiefs, and his e- mail exchanges are published in a book, Delete This at Your Peril, next week.

The creator…

BEHIND every good writer, there is of course, an editor. Bob’s exchanges with the spammers might never have come to light had it not been for the unstinting efforts of his 29-year-old “ editor” Neil Forsyth. Forsyth, who graduated in politics from Edinburgh University, is a journalist and author and currently lives in London.

FM: What gave you the idea to take on the spammers? Was there one real- life spam sent to you that made you snap?

NF: Originally, it was supposed to be a feature for a men’s magazine, but, in the end, the exchange was far too long. I’d enjoyed doing it, however, so kept it going as a slightly strange hobby. The character of Bob slowly grew until it kind of took over. I mentioned to my agent what I’d been up to and he liked the material enough to send it round some publishers. Delete This At Your Peril is the unexpected result.

FM: How did you come up with Bob’s character – is he based on anyone you know?

NF: Growing up in Broughty Ferry, it was rare to meet an older man who did not have a story or a theory at hand. They were fantastic and Bob is very much a tribute to them.

FM: Which is your favourite of all Bob’s e- mail corre spondence?

NF: Probably the one where Bob takes his postman hostage and keeps him in the cupboard under his stairs. The spammer immediately suggests that he knows a lawyer who can help Bob – for payment of course.

FM: Did some of Bob’s victims cotton on quite quickly? Have you ever received threats as a consequence?

NF: I think a few of them suspected that Bob was being less than straight with them but, from their point of view, it was probably about hanging in there and suffering his madness for the outside chance he might have eventually stumped up some cash.

FM: Some of the correspondence is so far- fetched some readers might have difficulty believing it is all genuine. Did you use any “ artistic licence”.

NF: No, they’re all based on genuine exchanges. Of course, there’s an editing process, but I tried to limit this to altering the spammers’ personal details to give me some protection. I did have to shorten the entries a bit as they tended to go on for weeks, if not months.

FM: Did you ever feel sorry for any of those people who got involved in the exchanges with Bob?

NF: The guy who I had let believe that Bob was a woman and ended up exchanging amateur poetry with I felt a little guilty about. I just hope he was pursuing other romantic leads and hadn’t pinned everything on Bob.

FM: What is Bob doing now?

NF: He’s very much enjoying the book’s launch and the interest in his daily blog on www. bobservant. com. He says that it’s like Beatlemania for him in Broughty Ferry right now, and quite right, too.

FM: What is your next project?

NF: We’ve just completed a film deal for my last book, Other People’s Money, and I’m writing a novel. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see another volume of Bob’s e-mails, either. I’ve heard that, despite appearances to the contrary, he needs the money.

And his creation ...

HELLO there. As you are probably already aware, I am Bob Servant, the star and hero of my new book Delete This At Your Peril – One Man’s Fearless Exchanges with the Internet Spammers. It’s a magnificent book, there’s no doubt about that. I won a computer in the bowling club raffle here in Broughty Ferry and I couldn’t believe how many new friends started e-mailing me offering me money, foreign brides, jobs and so on. So I started to e-mail them all back. I’d tell them about my life, and the scrapes I get into with my pals, and they tended to ask for money and sometimes get a little angry.

People ask if I’ve been e-mailing them in revenge for them trying to nick my money, but that’s not it at all. I just think that if you chat to these people then it can be a lot of fun and help the nights to go by. I’m not sure if they would agree with the fun bit, but there you go. When I got a call from The Scotsman newspaper saying they’d like to run some bits from the book my answer was very clear – no thanks. As far as I’m concerned, if someone wants to read the e-mails and hear from old Bob here then they can get themselves down to the shops and buy the bloody book.

But then my publisher called and made it quite clear that this probably was something that I should be doing. To be perfectly honest, I was a little disappointed with some of the language they used. I think that sometimes they forget that I’m the star of the operation and should be treated as such.

So anyway, here are some of the e- mails that I’ve been exchanging with the internet spammers. I hope you enjoy them, you bunch of cheapskates. You should be ashamed of yourselves.“

• This is an abridged extract from the chapter: Uncle Bob's African Adventure

FROM: JOSEPH UDEZE

TO: BOB SERVANT

SUBJECT: ARE YOU INTERESTED

Dear Good Friend,

I AM Joseph Udeze, solicitor at law. I am the presonal Attorney to Mr Christian Clark, a national of your country who lived in Nigeria. In May 2000, my client was killed in a car accident in Hano. The bank where had an account of $9.5m has issued me a noticed to provide the beneficiary or have the account consfiscated with in 20 days.

Since I have been unsuccessful in location the relatives, I now seek your consent to present you as the beneficiary of the $9.5m. If you agree we can discuss your perecentage. Please i will like you to send to me your full name and addresss, private telephone and fax number for easy communication.

Best regards,

Barr. Joseph Udeze (Esq.)

From: Bob Servant

To: Joseph Udeze

Subject: Good Morning

Joseph,

I cannot hep you with the Clarky stuff, but if you can prove that you live in Africa then I have a business proposal for you.

Your Servant

Bob Servant

From: Joseph Udeze

To: Bob Servant

Subject: FURTHER DETAILS

Dear Bob,

Yes, I live in Africa and as such would be ready for your proposal.

Thanks,

Joseph

From: Bob Servant

To: Joseph Udeze

Subject: Now we’re talking

Listen my new pal, I have an idea that I would like to run past you. I think and hope, that it will blow your socks off. I have a small cafe here in Broughty Ferry. We mostly work off the taxi drivers and posties, you know the drill – sausages (link and square), bacon rolls. meths. You’d be amazed at the meths we shift Joseph. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I want to give the cafe a total overhaul.

What I’m thinking is this – UNCLE BOB’S AFRICAN ADVENTURE. I would fill the place with plants and tress and make it really dark. When people came in they would literally have to trek to the counter, using a machete to get thought the vines and avoid being attacked by the lions. These would be the large paper mache lion heads that I would wear, popping up from behing the foliage and roaring in their ears. Let me know if you think if you could help,

Yours,

Bob

From Joseph Udeze

To Bob Servant

Subject I am waiting...

Dear Bob,

Nice talks...I shall be willing to render assistance if you can give me further details. You have made a nice catch! How can I help you with this enterprise Thanks, Joseph.

From: Bob Servant

To: Joseph Udeze

Subject: What I need

Joseph,

That is great news. What I need is this – an African team that can come up with sizzling African dishes that the caf can cook. What do you think? I would need full recipes and would be willing to pay $500 for each one. I am incredibly excited about this. I am going to close the caf next week and start the work on it.

Yours

Bob Servant

Further e-mail exchanges take place in which joseph agrees to provide recipes from Nigeria to be provided by "Food Technoolgy Specialist" Christian Bala, but insists he needs Bob’s personal details for legal reasons

From: Bob Servant

To: Joseph Udeze

Subject: Sounds good

Joseph

Good to hear from you my friend. Things are coming along really well here. Old Joan, who works behind the counter, has taken it upon herself to start learning Swahili, which is a lovely touch. I have a very, very good feeling about UNCLE BOB’S AFRICAN ADVENTURE. Also, here’s the other info you need – I’m single/available Caf address – Uncle Bob’s Wonderful Caf

71 The High Street

Dundee

Scotland

UK

Uncle Bob

From: Joseph Udeze

To: Bob Servant

Subject: Have a look at the attached files

Dear Bob Thanks for all the information which has given me more confidence in what we are about doing. I have attached here scanned copies of my own photograph for your perusal.

Thanks

Joseph

From: Bob Servant

To: Joseph Udeze

Subject: Sensational

Joseph

Thank you so much for sending me these photos. They are simply sensational. The photos, if you like, show the two sides of Joseph Udeze, am I correct?

You look quite like Sir Trevor MacDonald, who used to read the news over here and play for Newcastle United. Is he a relation of yours?

Thank you

Bob

PS I am 62 years old.

From: Joseph Udeze

To: Bob Servant

Subject: Thanks for your words

Dear Bob

Just relax your mind because I am working things out in a way that favours everybody. I have just viewed a picture on the web of Sir Trevor MacDonald and I am not related. People can resemble each other and that is exactly what you have spotted. I don’t think I have any relation over there in Scotland.

Have a nice time

Yours truly

Joseph U.

From: Bob Servant

To: Joseph Udeze

Subject: Frank

Joseph,

Hello my friend, good to hear from you and don’t worry about the Sir Trevor MacDonald thing, it doesn’t affect your employment. Joseph, I really need to get these recipes in as my chef Frank Theplank has to start practising very soon so that he can cook them by the time the caf opens...

Many thanks

Bob

From: Joseph Udeze

To: Bob Servant, Frank Theplank

Subject: From the chef

Forwarded Message –

From: Christian Bala

To: Joseph Udeze

Subject: African Menu

ATTN: MR. BOB SERVANT/FRANK THEPLANK

I AM CHRISTIAN BALA (CHEF). HAVING RECEIVED INSTRUCTIONS FROM MR JOSEPH UDEZE, I WILL OUTLINE SOME OF THE POPULAR AFRICAN DISHES...

CHRISTIAN BALA

BOB then chooses three recipes including one involving a goats head and another for yam potage. More emails follow and eventually a recipe for yam potage is received.

From: Bob Servant

To: Christian Bala, Joseph Udeze

Subject: The Yam Potage

Christian

THANK you very much for this recipe. Frank is not working today as he trapped his foot in a drain on the way home last night and is unable to walk. With anyone else I would find this suspicious but, with Frank, I believe it. The guy is a complete fool. However, he is a good chef and I can’t wait to see how he does with these recipes...

Also, I’m going to start hunting about for a lion’s head. Should I get a male or female? I know the easy answer is male but sometimes I think female lions are more scary because you wouldn’t expect it from them. I don’t want one that’s too scary though as it would be disastrous if I were to give someone a heart attack. Maybe I’ll just wear a normal tracksuit with the lion’s head so they realise it is not a real lion.

Bob

From: Christian Bala

To: Bob Servant

Subject: Payment

Dear Bob

You will be fine with male or female lion head as people will be terrified of both.Your caf will be a big success. We have released the information on how to prepare Yam Potage as a sample of what we are capable of doing. We are also willing to release the other two menus but it is our wish to demand for at least an advance payment to proceed with the assignment which we are very willing to accomplish. Your good understanding would be highly appreciated.

Thanks

Christian Bala

At this point Bob sends a very long and exceedingly complicated explanation for why Uncle Bob’s African Adventure will no longer be going ahead. The tragic tale can be read in Delete This at Your Peril, suffice to say it involves a lion costume and yam potage. The reponse to this from Africa, and final e-mail in the series, is as follows...

From: Christian Bala

To: Bob Servant

YOU ARE A STUPID MAN

 
 
 

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