That’s OK, it’s not like I actually NEED sleep or anything…

Right, time for a rant!  We have a page on the site that gives my contact details, including both UK and USA numbers so that law enforcement or the media can contact me.  On the page it clearly states that it is ONLY for those purposes, explains that all the the calls are transferred to my mobile phone if I’m not at the PC and are answered in the UK, says to only call between certain times and even has a clock showing the time in the UK.  Most nights I’m lucky if I get to bed before 2am.  Guess what happened this morning.

Check out the time shown.  Half past five in the morning!  The sad thing is, it’s not a one off.  Many people see it as fine to call me up at ungodly hours of the night because they can’t be bothered actually reading.  In almost every case it’s happened, the person calling as been a victim of webcam blackmail.  There are links to where to go if you’re the victim of webcam blackmail all over the site.  On some pages there are 5 different links to blackmailscams.com, one of which even flashes!  We clearly state that if you call the number for any reason other than a media or police request, the call will be ignored.  And yet, with alarming regularity, I get calls from people who apparently see the rules as not applying to them.  How do you think your car mechanic would react if you decided to drag him out of bed at 3am because your car wouldn’t start?  Exactly!  We do all we can to help, but there are limits.  On the occasions I have spoken to these people (and these include while walking around the supermarket, while driving – on a hands free system of course, and even in a hospital waiting room) the questions they ask have already been answered on the site numerous times before if they’d actually taken the time to read.   Let me ask you this question.  If someone can’t follow one simple instruction, what are the odds they can follow the series of steps they need to deal with their scam?

Monkey see, monkey do.

We often talk about how we can tell where a scammer is from simply by format the scam takes.  For example, if a scammer uses a photo of a modelesque female and asks for money to pay the translation agency they’ve been using to help them communicate then we can assume with a great degree of certainty that the scammer is in Ukraine.  If a sextortion scammer demands amounts in the thousands, that’s a strong indicator they’re from Ivory Coast.  People sometimes talk about the scammers like they’re some kind of criminal mastermind, but it’s far more likely they’re simply copying the “format” of another scammer.  We can go even further back and point out that the “419 scam” we know today is nothing more than the “Spanish prisoner” scam that originated in the 18th century, with the only major difference being the means used to send the scam out.  Back then it would have been done by mail, whereas now the scammers use email.

The emails themselves are often nothing more than recycled or reused scripts.  Here’s two examples from our forum that show almost identical wording in two emails from almost six years apart:

Here’s another example of what’s known as the “dying widow scam” from five years apart.  This time it has a particular mistake in it that remained for many years:

 

The point we’re making here is that scammers aren’t criminal geniuses.  Most are using pre-written texts that have been around for years, and doing nothing more than copy and pasting it to thousands of people at once in the hopes that at least one will fall for it.  There are clever scammers out there, don’t let this make you feel otherwise.  Someone had to come up with that format in the first place after all.  Most however, from the refugee scammer in Ivory Coast to the romance scammer in Ukraine are doing nothing more than playing a game of “monkey see, monkey do”.

 

It’s not us that need convincing.

Every now and again (today being the latest incident), someone comes to the site, says “XXXXXX is a scammer.  They were acting suspicious.” and expects us to allow that report to stay.  Here’s the problem with that.  There’s no actual scam proof.  Nine times out of ten, it’s pretty obvious to us that the profile or story is “scammy”, but “scammy” isn’t “scam proof” and that’s what we need.

Imagine for a moment that someone is talking to a scammer and is having suspicions about him, so they do a search and find us.  They look at the thread, see someone claiming the person they’re talking to is a scammer, but see no scam proof.  They confront the scammer, but the evidence is so weak that they can handwave it away by claiming it to be a bitter ex on a vendetta against them.  Now the person is even more hooked by the scammer’s story and it becomes much harder to help them.  That’s why proof is so important, and not just circumstantial proof but real proof.  You’re not having to persuade us it’s a scammer.  You’re having to persuade the next person that comes along that he is.

The exception that proves the rule.

Today I read the story of a woman who was catfished that ended with her and the person whose photos were stolen falling in love.  All very sweet you may think, but it causes a big problem for us.  People will see this and think the same can happen to them.  Let me make this clear – what happened is an anomaly, but it’s going to give false hope to people.  We’ve seen the flip side of this.  We’ve seen it when people have stalked the person whose photos were abused convinced they’d fall in love with them if only they had the chance to meet them, when they had to move due to the amount of grief and abuse they were getting from people, when a person couldn’t see the difference between the scammer and the person in the photos and attempted to kill her, when the photos were of a soldier who had been killed in action and their family had to deal with this further distress.  But hey, one story makes the media because it has a happy ending.  Let’s ignore the hundreds of thousands of times when all that happened was misery, bankruptcy and even death.  Things have just gotten a whole lot tougher for us, for the victims of scams and for the people who through no fault of their own are dragged into the scam through their stolen images.

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.