You can’t cheat an honest man – or can you?

Today I want to talk about charity scams.  These are scams that rely on a person’s kindness.  For all the “scams rely on a person’s greed” talk, this is one scam that is 100% not about that.  In fact, it won’t work unless the person is willing to give freely for no reward.  The best example I’ve ever seen of this involved a horrible, disfiguring disease that literally eats away at the faces of children in poor countries.  It’s contracted through dirty water.  The scammers were asking for $1000 to pay for an operation to restore the child’s face.  No financial incentive, just “for every $1000 we receive, we can pay to rebuild the face of a child stricken with noma”.  This isn’t the only example, but it’s the one I remember the most.  I will never forget the images sent with the emails.  It’s easy to see why people would fall for these scams.  Anyone can be the victim of a scam.  It’s simply a matter of finding the right strings to pull.  Sometimes the bait is money, but sometimes it’s nothing more than wanting to make someone else’s life better.  So you can cheat an honest man.  You just need to pull on his heartstrings.

What can everyone do to help?

This one is very simple.  Not everyone wants to bait or do victim support.  We understnad and appreciate it’s not for everyone.  However, everyone can help by either getting the word out or posting up any scammer emails they get.  The more the information is put “out there”, the more likely people are of finding it and not falling for the scam.  It doesn’t cost you anything other than a few minutes of your time, and makes a huge difference in the fight against scammers.

I’m often asked if I were ever the victim of a scam.

Short answer, no.  Long answer, not online and luckily I didn’t lose a large amount of money.

Back when we were first married, my wife and I wanted a new TV for our house.  We saw an advert (a full 2 page spread advert to be exact) in the local paper for an auction and it had really cheap TVs.  I bought a mystery item, which turned out to be useless to me.  Fortunately it was just what someone else needed, so they bought it off me.  Total loss, around £10.  A few years later, I bought carpet off the back of a lorry.  The old “we’ve got some surplus left from recarpeting a hotel” scam.  I bought a roll of carpet from them at a pretty good price.  It wasn’t the size they claimed it was, but it perfectly fitted the room I wanted it for, was in great condition and lasted until we moved.  So it actually worked out the same price as the same sized roll of cheap carpet if I’d bought it in a shop.

So to summarise, yes, I was scammed but my losses were very small.  As for online, no I’ve never been scammed.  Maybe those two incidents around 20 years ago taught me the old adage “If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is”.

 

If you didn’t enter it, you didn’t win it.

Did you buy a lottery ticket this week?  If you did, then good luck and please remember your old pal Wayne if you win the big one.  If you didn’t then of course there’s no way you can win.  It’s the same with the internet.  No matter how many emails you get claiming the opposite, if you didn’t enter a lottery, then you didn’t win it.  There’s no such thing as “we picked your email address at random” when it comes to these things.  That would be absurd.  It all comes down to the phrase “If it seems too good to be true, it probaby is”.

The “YouTube police”.

One trick used by blackmail scammers is to write to their victims claiming to be from YouTube and telling them they need to pay a fine for their video appearing on the site.  Now obviously, reading that statement from an objective point of view it’s obviously a lie.  However, put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  Their lives have just crumbled around them.  The unthinkable has happened.  They’re not thinking straight, scared,  haven’t eaten or slept in days.  You could probably tell them that the MiB have written to them and they’ll believe it.  The one thing we always try to do is get people to take a breath, clear their head and look at the situation objectively.  When they can do that, they can see through the lies and do what needs to be done in order to deal with this scam properly.  It’s not always easy, but it is essential.

DDoS attacks

We’ve had several DDoS attacks lately.  Luckily they haven’t taken our site down, but we do have very good DDoS protected hosting.  It’s more expensive, but as we can see, it’s well worth the cost.  Crazy as it sounds, we actually like getting them.  It shows us that we’ve upset someone enough for them to be willing to pay to try and shut us down.  For those unaware, a DDoS attack is when hundreds, thousands, or even millions of infected computers are all told to go to a specific site.  The result is that the host can’t cope with all the traffic and it shuts the site down.  The first time it ever happened to us was back in August of 2012, just a few months after we started.  These days, we probably get one a fortnight.  It’s going to take more than that to stop us reporting the scammers.

Nine years today I started this journey.

On December 5th 2005, I discovered the world of scambaiting.  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.  Since that day I’ve baited thousands of scammers, spoken to thousands of scam survivors, written three books, appeared on TV, had my ugly mug shown in the national newspapers, been a moderator and admin on several antiscam forums, set up my own sites, spoken to the dating industry on romance scams and been referred to as an “expert”.  There’s even stuff happening that I can’t talk about right now, but will be big news.  I still find the whole thing crazy, that stumbling onto an antiscam site all those years ago could change my life so dramatically.   I really have to thank my family and friends for putting up with me and this strange hobby, along with the good friends I’ve made along the way.  Some I’ve even met in person.  Here’s to the next nine years and beyond.

The sharing of information HAS to be a two way street.

Here’s a form we received recently:

Your name. This will not be made public. It is just for our own records.*: ghjkj
Your location. This will not be made public. It is just for our own records.*: ghjkjlkö
Your email address. This will not be made public. It is just for our own records.*: gjhklk@jhkjl.com
What name did the scammer use?*: hgjklkj
How old did the scammer say they were?*: ghjklö
Scammer’s Skype username (right click their photo/avatar and click “view profile”). THE NAME WILL HAVE NO SPACES IN IT.*: ghjhklöl

So we have no details whatsoever on their scammer.  They found our site because of information others were willing to share, but refused to give anything back.  Imagine if another person who had been scammed by the same scammer did the same and he never found us.  Information has to be shared or the scammers will win.

If it can be used, it can be abused.

Scammers will use anything they can to make their scams appear more legitimate.  This includes abusing many legitimate services.  For example, Western Union offer a service where people can be sent money if they lose their ID/get robbed.  To do so, the person sending the money gives the person collecting the money a test question and answer.  Have the MTCN (basically the transaction number) and the right question and answer and you can collect the money without the need for ID.  Scammers use this as a way to collect money from their victims without having to give their real details.  Internet “follow me” numbers are great, as you can give a person a number and they can reach you on it no matter where in the world you are.  Scammers of course use these to appear in another country, typically using the +4470 number.  Screen recording software is incredibly useful for making captures showing how things are done on a computer without having to resort to long lists explainign each step.  Unfortunately it’s also incredibly useful for blackmail scammers to record the webcam of a person in a compromising situation.  There was even a time (though we don’t see it much anymore) where scammers would use text phones – designed to help people without the ability to speak – as a way to disguise their voice.  So remember, if there’s a way to abuse a legitimate service or product, scammers will find it.

Pot, kettle, black.

Remember that this comes from a scammer profile:

A note to all online Cheater ,Joker, and boys who derive pleasure from reeling women in building up false hope then crushing them ,you know who you are…am not here for you, you’re not welcome.

This is actually a common scammer trick to warn off other scammers.  Also it’s worth knowing how we can tell this is a scammer profile just from that short extract.  No one else uses the word “joker”.  It’s actually a term they use for baiters.  It comes from “Gmail jokers” from back in the days when all baiters would use Gmail.  Plus the “am not here” part has that typical West African thing of saying “am” instead of “I am”.