Just a few short years ago, I wasn’t completely gray.

Oh, but those were simpler times. They were times of butterflies, roses and people not asking questions that were already answered. It was that sweet spot just after I finished answering every “what if….” question people could ask about sextortion. So what happened? People decided not to read what I’d spent hours upon hours writing, but instead just ask questions that were already covered. You want an example, right? Sure you do. Here’s one from today that came to me in our feedback form:

Do you have any comments about our steps?: Wondering if Facebook messenger applies to not being used as it is my main form of communication

Those steps I wrote clearly already cover this. Don’t believe me?

8. Skype, Facebook and any other accounts you have online need to be deactivated for AT LEAST TWO WEEKS.  Double this time if you paid money or your scammer is from West Africa.  Double it again if both are true.  Paying counts whether you canceled it or not.  These are the MINIMUM times needed.  The longer you leave them deactivated, the better.

See, I told you. Even if you ignore “Skype, Facebook”, you have “and any other accounts you have online”. That HAS to cover it, right? ANY OTHER ACCOUNTS covers everything, right? Right? Apparently not. And that’s why I can look back at photos of me just 5 years ago and see just how much grayer I’ve become these past few years.

I have a theory.

Every year, several members of the ScamSurvivors team meet up to share 10 days together by the sea. This year, when doing the booking, I spotted that a 2 week booking was a better deal than a 10 day one, so my wife and I spent a few days at the place before collecting the rest of the crew. A fun time was had by all, many laughs were had, many drinks were drunk and so on and so forth. That’s not the important thing, plus I can’t show you any snapshots from it. During those 14 days, I did my best to leave my laptop in its bag and enjoy being on holiday. When I got back, there was a huge backlog of work to be done, including over 270 scam emails to be filtered through and posted up. Now, this is where the point of this blog post is finally reached.

Usually I work through my catcher account and post the scam emails I receive as and when they arrive. The most one may sit in my inbox is 12 hours. This time however, I got to see a much larger selection at once. I noticed a few things that I’d like to share with you.

Firstly, +4470 numbers. For those unfamiliar, these numbers are “follow me” numbers, and until recently were treated like premium rate numbers. Skype point blank refuses to let me even call them, knowing how much they cost. These are a throwback to before things like Skype numbers became popular, when scams were simpler. As I was plowing through the emails, I saw several still being used. I also saw +23470 numbers being used, probably in equal amounts. These are from Nigerian mobile networks. This led me to wonder if some scammers are still using the +4470 numbers due to their familiarity with the +23470 ones. I can’t say for sure, but it’s certainly a theory that’s worth keeping an eye on. How many of the +4470 users are Nigerians rather than scammers from elsewhere in West Africa?

Secondly came the emails that arrived during the weekend. The number would drop to probably half over the weekends, but what I also noticed was that the amount of “repeats” doubled. Typically, around 20% of the emails I receive are ones I’ve received before. However, over the weekends that number would double. So why would this be? Is it because the scammers who work weekends are newer/more desperate and simply sending out their script to the same sucker lists several times? Are the more successful scammers taking the weekends off to spend their ill gotten gains, leaving those lower on the ladder to continue trying to collect the scraps left?

Truth is, I don’t know the answer to either question. Right now they’re just theories that are worth keeping an eye on. If you’ve noticed the same, please let me know so we can put our heads together to try and work out the bigger picture.

Why “Survivors”?

This is a question I was recently asked, why do we use the term “scam survivors” rather than “scam victims”? The answer is very simple. The word “victim” has such a stigma attached to it that we avoid using it if at all possible. “Victim” says that the person had something bad happen to them. “Survivor” says that the person had something bad happen to them, they dealt with it, moved on with their life and now refuse to be labeled by it. They beat it, it didn’t beat them. Which would you rather be?

Catcher as catch can.

One of the questions I’m often asked by the media is “How do you get the scammers’ information?” and the simple answer is, I have something called a catcher account. It’s an email address that was specifically created to put out into the wild in order to receive scammer emails. It’s never used for any real life activities, has a fake name and uses absolutely nothing that could ever identify me. Many years ago it was added to a fake “sucker list” and posted online. The only reason anyone would ever contact me on it is because they want to try and scam me. I never use it to initiate contact with a scammer. It’s only ever used to receive emails. The reason for this is to avoid any accusations of entrapment. How successful is it? Judge for yourself. The screen grab below is the list of what emails it received in a single day.

Wanted to share this comment with you.

When someone has completed the steps we give that help deal with sextortion scams, we offer them the chance to leave a comment. This is one we received today, and it shows just how important the work we do is:

I just want to thank all of you behind this page. Because if it werent for you I would probably be getting beat by my ENTIRE family or committing suicide

Like farming, what’s that then?

We’ve all seen those “like and share” stories on Facebook, right? Some are harmless, some are funny, but some are dangerous and here’s why.

Let’s say I create a post on Facebook with some great (true or made up, it doesn’t matter) story and ask people to like and share it. People do, and as time goes by it gathers momentum. Now that post’s been liked by tens of thousands of people. It HAS to be a good post, right? Now let’s take that post that’s so liked and edit it. “Look at these cute puppies” or whatever it said before gets completely removed and replaced with an ad for some dodgy product. When people look at that page now, what they see is that tens of thousands of people liked the ad that says “Make millions within a week by doing this one simple thing”. Tens of thousands of people liked it, so it must be good, right? Of course not. It’s a complete scam designed purely to make one person money, and that one person is me! Anyone else who tries it only loses money, but the likes the post has makes it appear that it actually does work. And that in a nutshell is how like farming works and why liking and sharing these posts is bad. The best thing to do if someone sends you one is to break that chain, not like or share it and tell the person who sent it to you why it’s such a bad idea.

Let’s throw some stats your way.

Out of curiosity today, I did some research regarding how many posts and topics have been made on our forum in the past 12 months. Here’s what I discovered:

We received 5000 sextortion reports and made 2000 topics. Not all the forms we receive have enough information to be able to post it publicly. In those cases, we have a single topic in a “staff only” area for us to keep track of them. On average, around 1 in every 5 reports we receive are not posted in the public area.

Our 419 section had roughly 8500 posts and 2200 topics. That’s an average of around 23 posts a day.

The romance scam section has 2500 posts in 500 threads.

Our refugee scam section had 300 posts in 16 threads.

These are just in the “scam reports” section of our forum, and doesn’t take into account the work that goes into shutting down scammer websites etc. That’s a lot of work in getting the word out, wouldn’t you say?

Getting ready for love.

Valentines Day is fast approaching, and scammers are going to hit hard on those looking for love online. Back in 2014 we were lucky enough to be able to give a presentation to the dating site industry about the ways to spot romance scammers. Since then, it’s been made into a web based presentation and added to/tweaked on a fairly regular basis to keep up with the latest trends used by scammers. Even today it’s had some extra information added. If you want to check it out, it’s at https://scamsurvivors.com/romancescammers/#/

What exactly is Scam Survivors?

Let me explain by first telling you what it isn’t:

It’s not a website, although there’s obviously a website attached.

It’s not a movement or a hashtag or a bandwagon.

It’s not some government organisation.

It’s not a company.

So what is Scam Survivors? It’s four people from around the world who don’t want the scammers to win, so do all we can to try and stop them using every resource we have. That’s what Scam Survivors is. Do you feel the same way? Do you want to join us? All it takes is for you to post up any scam emails you receive. It’s that simple. Why aren’t you doing it already?

Small victories.

As kind of a counterpoint to the last blog post, which was kind of a downer, let’s look at the times we were buoyed by things we saw. The main source of this for me right now is our feedback form. It’s something we ask people to fill in after completing the sextortion steps. What do we get from there? Let’s take a look at a few examples to see why these would pick us up. We ask two questions, how useful were the steps we give and are there any comments:

Thank you for all the tips, really enjoyed the help

Very usefull and make me much relieved

I never thought I’d find a nice place such as this here.

wonderful

Just thx for the advices. I was lost over a day and didnt know what to do. Really thank you guys for these steps

Great info you shared.

Thanks a lot for your help

I feel more comfortable now…thank you

thanks for everything

thank you from the bottem of my heart

It’s not the “Thank you” messages that make this worthwhile. That’s a bonus obviously, but knowing what we did helped people makes us want to continue the fight no matter what. We have to fight enemies from all sides on a constant basis, but even if just one person was helped by our words, we’d do it all again.