Let’s stop pretending.

We live in a world of double standards.  When a woman is raped, there will be voices blaming her for the clothes she wore or for her way of being.  “She was asking for it”.  On the other hand, if the woman is a celebrity, there will be enough fuss for society to do something about it and punish the culprit, even if the law can not do it.  If an old man gets beaten black and blue on the street by a gang of drunken youngsters, there will be voices blaming him for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and maybe doing something to antagonize his agressors.  If someone gets his wallet stolen in a crowded place, there will be voices saying “it was his fault”  or “he was careless”.  At the same time, if a theft affects a big company or a public figure, you will see all the legal authorities jumping in and trying their best to solve the case and punish the culprit.  The perception changes only if the victim is someone you know and care about, but who cares about an ordinary person except the family and friends circle?  How many people even know if their friend or family member was a victim of such events?

It’s easy to judge things you don’t understand.  An online fraud is an aggression ending in theft.  Any online fraud is a mental rape of the victim.  Despite claims of having a social system build to punish this type of actions, that system works perfectly in a single direction: finding excuses for doing nothing.  Instead of support and help, all the victims get is blame.

The real world and the scam world are parallel universes, with enough connections forcing changes from one to another.  The lack of victim protection in the real world created a scam world where every fraudster knows he can do whatever he wants without being punished.

When it’s about online fraud, everybody remember only the funny things showing how stupid the scammers are.  If the scammers are so stupid, what do you call someone really believing their lies?  We have an ignored equation here.  For every stupid scammer making people laugh, there are thousands of others learning from that one stupid scammer’s mistake. Even that stupid one will be not doing it if there is no money he can earn from it.  In his society, each successful scammer is a model – as long as he is not caught.

In Malta a few days ago, a magistrate judging a get-rich type of scam said in court: “You must be an imbecile to invest in these scams. The law ends up defending imbeciles,” (…) “ I want to tell these people to be careful and not come to us after getting bitten.”

According to a study recently made by Barclays, “the average UK adult is a victim of fraud twice in their lives and will have been targeted 11 times in the past year.” (…) ” The words “stupid” and “angry” are commonly used.” (…) “Victims of fraud reported feeling stupid (31 per cent), victimised (23 per cent), helpless (13 per cent) and gullible (12 per cent). As a result, the effect online fraud has on a victim’s life is profound as over half (52 per cent) kept it a secret from their friends and family. Furthermore, a quarter (25 per cent) didn’t confide in their partner and five per cent actually ended up splitting up, following the scam.”
Online fraud costs society over a hundred billion dollars in losses each year.  Online fraud creates a major disruption in all the society levels.  Instead of a proactive approach meant to stop the fraud, we see only shields built to avoid responsibility.

In the real world, the banks will say they educate their users to prevent them from being victims and they have no legal obligation to return victim losses if that victim decided to pay a frauster.  Online patforms like social, professional or dating sites have huge disclaimers forcing their users to accept that the site has no responsibility if anyone gets scammed on their platforms.  Law enforcement will usually say they have no jurisdiction overseas, and since the victim is in one country and the scammer in another one, there is not much they can do.

In the scam world, the infrastructure of online fraud – fake profiles, virtual phone numbers, email addresses, fake sites – expands because there are no valid and functional mechanisms in place to stop fraudsters from using it to their own advantage.  For every cent an online fraudster gets, there is a real person losing it. Again, we are talking about over a hundred billion dollars, with the amount increasing year after year.

There is an entire paralel “industry” of pretend organisations, agencies and so called private detectives groups offering help and support only if the victim can afford to pay for it.  With few exceptions, this is just another scam on a victim who might have already lost everything and is desperately searching for a way to solve the problems the fraudsters left them with.

Most of the online frauds are never reported to anyone.  Firstly, because society abandoned the victim and there is nothing left for that victim to recover – blame and shame will never do any good to no one.  Secondly, because the ones indirectly helping the scammer to defraud victims will do nothing to stop the ways the fraudsters use for leaving their victim peniless.  In time, this situation will backfire and we will have more and more victims paying the price for a society that is so busy pretending that it has forgotten its basic meaning: defend their citizens.  From a legal point of view, an unreported crime means there is no crime – easy to pretend no one needs to do anything about it.

The victims of online fraud are part of a silent community, while each unreported online fraud will give the scammer what he needs: time to develop and grow until a level when he not only learns how to hide better, but also how to defraud better.  Keeping quiet about it only aggravates the situation.  Until society and its so called defending mechanisms will work properly – if that ever happens – the victims have just one way of solving the problem: speak. Remember that the scammer you don’t expose today will create more victims tomorrow.  If we stop pretending that we are not victims and talk about it, in time maybe others will be able to do so as well.

If we’d have said it, no one would have believed us.

There was a story on the Daily Beast’s website today about sextortion and the – in my opinion at least – complete incompetence shown by the law enforcement person in charge of the investigation.  Here’s the sad thing about it.  Nothing in the article surprised us.  I was in contact with the reporter thoughout the writing process, and at one point she asked me what we would have done if we were in the sheriff’s position.  Basically, everything we said we’d do was met with “he didn’t do that”.  It’s not the first time it’s happened though.  Several years ago I was interviewed for a program on the BBC called Crimewatch.  Before filming, I sent them two short videos I use to explain to the media in advance how the scams work from a technical point of view.  We’ve said time and again that the scammers aren’t “live” in front of the camera and use prerecorded footage.  The policeman was convinced the scams were being done by females who actually appear on webcam and had to be shown by the production team the videos I’d sent so he could see the truth and not make a fool of himself on the program.  If they can’t even get such basics right, what hope do we stand?  Back in 2016, the National Crime Agency had a campaign to warn people about sextortion.  All well and good you’d think, but the wording of it was simply copy and pasted from other places.  How do I know this?  I recognised parts of it, and for good reason.  They copied entire sentences from us for it, word for word!  Now, don’t get me wrong here, some people in law enforcement know what they’re talking about and some have even directed people to us when they’ve been scammed.  The problem is, they’re too few and far between.  Yet, if we’d said “the sheriff didn’t even follow any of the basics when it came to dealing with the scam”, people wouldn’t have believed us.  Here, finally, is proof of just how bad it can be and what the consequences are.

The article in question can be found at https://www.thedailybeast.com/sextortion-killed-their-son-cops-looked-the-other-way

What can banks do to help fight Fraud?

I report the bank accounts that are received by Scamsurvivors.com and are being used to commit Fraud to the holding banks. Sometimes it’s as easy as looking up the bank, grabbing an E-mail address, and sending an E-mail. Other times it’s a struggle to say the least. I have some banks that I have to send faxes to like “Bank of Africa Senegal”. They have a Fraud E-mail address listed in their contact us page but it has bounced every time I have tried to use it. The E-mail address even starts with “fraud419”. So does that bank care about Fraud? I seem to get some evidence that my faxes are getting results. I have called banks in the USA and have been told on the phone that they cannot discuss anything Fraud related and they couldn’t even give me an E-mail address or Fax number to their fraud department! I sent that bank a letter in the mail with “Attn: Fraud Department” on it. No idea if it was ever opened.

So what can the banks do to help fight Fraud?

Have a fraud reporting E-mail address posted on their contact page and actually have someone responsible for reading and researching the information received. A lot of victims could be saved jail time and a lot more scammers could be arrested if they did.
Jeff Davies

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to get scammed again.

I remember in the days we had our live help room, people would come in and say “I’m so stupid”.  My reply would always be “Falling for a scam doesn’t make you stupid.  Not learning from your mistakes and falling for it A SECOND TIME however…..”.

Today we had an instance of someone getting scammed a second time just a few weeks after having filled in a form with a sextortion scammer’s details.  It seems that for some people, the thrill of seeing a female naked online is apparently a more powerful motivator than the risk of his friends, family and co workers seeing HIM naked.  What do you think the odds are we’ll see him a third time?

 

Sextortion facts and figures based on form submissions.

I have just done some research using information from the last 88 sextortion forms received.  Why 88?  Simply because I rename the CSV file every few days to let the software create a new one and stop the database getting too big and slow.  Each file is labeled with the date it was saved, so I can easily go back and check data from specific dates if needed.   There just so happened to be that many submissions when I did the latest one.  It’s worth noting that not every form has every bit of data filled in.  On with the data:

Out of the 88 forms, the top 5 places the person first met the scammer on were Facebook, OKCupid, Tinder, Skout and Chatrandom.  This made up 59 of the 88 forms.  In the top (or bottom, depending on how you look at it) spot was Facebook who were named a massive 40 times!  Next came OKCupid with 6.  In third place was Tinder with 5.  Joint fourth places were taken by Skout and Chatrandom with 4 apiece.

The largest amount of money demanded was $8000, and the lowest was $100.  Both were from Ivory Coast scammers.

We’re seeing places like Mali show up, which isn’t suprising as it’s a direct neighbour of Ivory Coast.  To simplify things, we’ll group Mali and Ivory Coast together and refer to them as “West Africa”.  Before doing this research, we’d noticed a decided decrease in the number of Moroccan scammers but had no actual figures to confirm this.  Now we do.  24 people sent money to the Philippines, 21 to West Africa and only 3 to Morocco.

So that’s what we discovered by looking into the data.  If you find this useful, please let us know.  If you use this, please credit us.

A few small words that make a world of difference.

This was at the end of one of our sextortion report forms today.  We’re glad to help, and always love to hear feedback like this.

From now I can sleep at night.  Thank so much.  God bless you.

Scammers lie.

I could end this blog post after simply repeating the title, but let’s go deeper into it, shall we?  Scammers lie.  Scammers lie for one reason, and that’s to separate you from your money.  They make up stories, they make up excuses, they make up sick family members, they make up companies, they make up disasters, they make up a sense of urgency, they make up threats, they even make up laws for the sole purpose of taking what’s yours.  In one of today’s blackmail forms, there was one of the latest ones we see:

Scammer used law from Italy article N° 74859 of December 3rd 2002 aswell as article 25 of law 765465 of the 7th of October.

Type “765465” into Google and see what you get.  Go to the forum search page on our site (https://scamsurvivors.com/forum/search.php to make it easier for you) and type in  765465.  Go back to Google and type in “Basic Travel Allowance” to see how many times that particular made up fee has reared its ugly head over the years.  These are just two examples of the multiple common lies scammers tell.  Learn what the lies are.  Educate yourself and others.  The more people know about these lies, the less effective they become.

I said at the start I could end this blog post after simply repeating the title.  Now I can.

Scammers lie.

Year on year figures.

Out of curiosity, I decided to take a look at the number of visitors to the site over the past few years.  As the site started in April of 2012, we’ll not take that year’s numbers into account, but instead start from the first full year which is 2013.  For those wondering, 2012 gave us 513,031 visitors.

These are “unique visitor numbers”, which means how many individuals looked at the site.  It doesn’t matter how many times they looked, or how many pages they looked at.  One person equals one “unique visitor”.

2013 – 1,367,859

2014 – 1,424,691

2015 – 1,582,718

2016 – 2,298,314

2017 – 2,530,095

As you can see, this shows a year on year rise in the number of people who came to the site, with the biggest single rise in 2016.  We’re not a huge site by any means, but our reach is growing each and every year.  Here’s to getting the word out even more in 2018.

 

We’re back!

After a long haitus, the blog is back.  We’ll be keeping you up to date on what’s happening on the site and in the antiscam world in general.

So much wrong information out there. Time to fix that.

I would like to address a big issue I see lately, and that’s the media posting “facts” about sextortion that we know are completely wrong.  Sometimes they even get the absolute basics wrong.  Just today I read an article that couldn’t even get the main locations of the scammers right.  In this blog entry I’m going to give the facts about these scams, based on our having dealt with around 15,000 cases (at the time of writing this, the last form we received was number 14,890).  Media people, feel free to quote any of this, so long as you give us credit.

Where are the scammers from?  Mainly three areas.  Morocco, the Philippines and Ivory Coast.  There are other places where they occur, but these are the three areas we see the most activity from.   Out of those three, Ivory Coast is the one we’ve seen the biggest rise from in the past year or so.

How common is it?  From what we’re seeing, it’s one of the fastest rising scams of the past few years.

How does the scam work?  All that’s required are two pieces of software, both of which are free and not exactly hard to find.  One tricks your computer into seeing other sources such as a video or part of your screen as a webcam, while one is used to capture the part of the screen the victim’s video is on.  Once you have those, all that’s left is to get the source material.  Again, it’s incredibly easy to do this.  The scammer then goes to a website and invites people into a video chat, usually through Skype.  The fake webcam is used, the video is recorded and then the fake webcam source is switched to the video of the person in the act.  Then begin the threats of having the video sent to everyone they know unless they pay up.  Very few bother uploading the video anymore as simply showing the video to them in Skype has the exact same effect.  None of this is difficult, and I have stated numerous times that I could teach anyone how to do this in less than 10 minutes.  Neither is it new.  I was using an almost identical technique back in 2007 to capture Pinay scammers (female scammers from the Philippines) in he act to post on Youtube.

Individuals or gangs?  Both.  Some work solo, while some are in organised groups.  We’ve seen news reports where entire “nests” have been raided, and we’ve spoken to scammers who work completely on their own.

How much money do the scammers demand?  Anything from $50 to $50,000 depending on where they’re from.  One of the methods we use to determine where the scammer is from is to see how much money they demand.  Ivory Coast scammers for example are likely to demand much larger amounts than others.

Where do they post the videos?  In most cases, if the scammer even bothers to upload a video then it’ll be on Youtube.  The video will have the person’s name in them, which is why one of the steps we give is to set up a Google alert.

Where do they threaten to post the videos?  Often, this is another indicator of where the scammer is from.  The scammers are using scripted responses that, in the case of Ivory Coast scammers, can involve threats to post the video on the Ellen Degeneres Facebook page or La Figaro newspaper.  Why those two in particulare were picked we have no idea, but they are the ones we see most often.

How hard is it to get rid of the video if they do post it?  A lot easier than you’d think.  For example, in Youtube, all it usually takes is for the video to be flagged for it to be removed within minutes.  Of course this is assuming the video even gets uploaded in the first place.

How did they find out the person’s details?  Sometimes, using nothing more than a phone number or email address, the scammer can do a search on Facebook to get the person’s profile.  More often than not, they simply ask the person for their profile so they can add them at the start of the scam.

How do they receive the money?  Money transfer services most of the time.  Western Union or Moneygram tend to be the “go to” companies used.

What happens if the person pays?  Most times, the scammer will then come back with demands for more money and even greater amounts.  We always tell people not to pay, and this is why.

Have the scammers actually gone ahead with their threats?  We won’t lie about it.  Yes it does happen on occasion.  We have a set of steps that we’ve made that will minimise the chances of it happening, but it’s never going to be 100% effective and also relies on the person finding us as soon as possible after the scam occurs.

Should the person go to the police?  Of course.  We always say for people to go to the police.  The more evidence they receive, the more likely they are to act on it.

What are these steps you talk about?  They can be found at blackmailscams.com and basically comprise these three things:

Block the scammer and disappear from social media for a set amount of time, depending on where the scammer was from and if you paid.

Set up alerts to warn you if the scammer ever does post anything up.

When you do return, make sure the scammer can’t find you again.

It’s much more complicated than that, but that’s it in a nutshell.

And they work?  Not 100% as we said earlier, but certainly if done right and early enough then we estimate a 99.9% success rate based on the number of people who have come back to say the scammer got back in touch with them after doing everything.

Should the scammer accounts be reported and deleted?  Oh good grief, no!  This is one of the biggest issues we have with a lot of reports.  What use do you think that’ll do?  They’ll simply set up a new one in minutes, or already have a bunch ready made just like in this example:

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If you want more information, then feel free to contact me by using this link.