Reported first by the Bristol Post, 24-year-old Edd Joseph of Bristol, England decided that he wanted a bit of revenge on a scammer that failed to come through with a game console purchase on a UK classified listings site called GumTree. Joseph found a listing that offered a PlayStation 3 bundle for the price of 80 British pounds (approximately $132 U.S. dollars) and paid the seller immediately. Unfortunately for Joseph, the scammer decided to keep the money and not ship Joseph the advertised PlayStation 3.
Armed with the scammer’s mobile phone number, Joseph started searching for the works of William Shakespeare and copying the full text of plays into his texting application. This allows him to send the entire play in a single text, but the scammer receives hundreds upon hundreds of text messages broken into 160 word chunks.
While Joseph doesn’t have to pay a dime to send the message each time, the scammer could potentially have to pay text messaging charges if they don’t have an unlimited plan. Of course, it’s also incredibly annoying to receive an endless amount of text messages, basically making the phone a paperweight until all messages have been delivered each time.
At this point, Joseph has sent 22 plays in total that amount to approximately 17,424 texts on the scammer’s phone. After sending notable works such as Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello, Joseph plans to send the remaining 17 plays in Shakespeare’s collection in the next few days. When complete, Joseph will have sent 37 text messages, but the scammer will have received nearly 30,000 messages.
Speaking about the idea to send a near endless amount of text messages, Joseph told the Post “I was really annoyed and 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. Then 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.”
Joseph turned to the idea of sending Shakespeare’s works after speaking with the police about the scam. According to local authorities, it’s unlikely that the money would be recovered from the scammer because Joseph paid with a direct bank transfer. Joseph also didn’t have any recourse with GumTree since the site specifically warns against using direct bank transfers within the site’s terms and conditions.
After the first play, Joseph started receiving abusive texts and calls from the scammer. Recounting the abuse, Joseph said “I got the first reply after an hour, and then a few more abusive messages after that. His phone must have been going off pretty constantly for hours. But recently 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. 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.”