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.

 

ScamSurvivors is going to change to a “pay to view” business model.

Well we all knew it was going to happen sooner rather than later.  There are two major changes coming to ScamSurvivors.  Come the start of 2017 our forum will have both free to view and pay to view content.  It’s going to be a lot of work, but it will mean that the site will become a revenue source for me.  All of our thread titles that mention the name of the person whose images have been stolen will become invisible to the casual readers of our site.  Also included will be the email address and phone number of the scammer if we have it.  All this for the bargain price of just $9.99 a month.  Another implementation will be that anyone subscribing will be able to see the details of anyone posting.  This will mean that, should a post be made by someone that is considered unfair, slanderous or just plain “not a nice thing to say”, for that $9.99 a month you’ll be able to contact them with a request to remove the information.  We hope people understand the reasons behind this move and will support is in this new venture.

Of course that whole previous paragraph is 100% Grade A Bullshit brought on by several incidents we’ve seen recently.  We have never and will never charge anyone for what we do here.  We offer “free, non judgmental help and advice” and it’s a credo we strongly believe in.  Not everyone else does though.

A long time ago we saw a site that was actually charging people 10 dollars to call them to discuss their scammer.  More recently we’ve seen sites that hide information from everyone until they subscribe to their “monthly plan”.  Let’s think about this for a moment.  Someone has just lost every penny they have to a scammer, and the only way they can get help is to pay even more money – money they don’t have after just being scammed.  It’s something we can in no way agree with and would never work with or endorse anyone who does.

Likewise, we’ve heard recently how another antiscam site was posted up elsewhere as a scam.  We get that sometimes people will try to badmouth sites like us.  It’s all part and parcel of what we do.  Earlier this year I was even accused of taking “backhanders” from the dating site industry.  Completely untrue of course.  Here’s the difference though.  The owner of aa419 (the site that has been wrongly accused of being a scam) messaged the owner of the site the report about them was on and – you can read what happened in their own words.  It’s really quite shocking.

So how do we sum this up?  Do the actions of these people make them just as bad as the scammers they claim to be fighting against?  Is what they’re doing right, and they’re justified in making money from any situation.  Here’s my opinion.  Our server costs us a lot of money each month due to constant DDoS attacks on us by the scammers trying to get ScamSurvivors shut down.  We still manage to pay the bills without having to hide anything from public view though.  It’s not easy but we manage it.    Information should be freely available as without doing so, people  aren’t going to be able to find the help they so desperately need at that time and are going to fall for scams.  I sure as hell wouldn’t want that on my conscience.  Also for the aa419 incident, well that’s plainly ridiculous and I’m disgusted with it.