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.

I wish I could give a “Hoorah 2019!” speech…

… but quite frankly I can’t. Here’s the problem. I’m finding it harder and harder to keep my passion going for what we do. Is it the scammers? Nope, the scammers haven’t changed at all. The victims then? Again, nope. The problem, and the reason I’m feeling my desire to do this lessen is those who are supposed to be on the same side. It’s the “experts” who deny anything they haven’t personally witnessed. It’s the media constantly ignoring the facts in exchange for a good story. It’s those who think they’re superior just because they’re on the latest bandwagon. It drags you down, and it’s been getting worse – much worse – these past 2 or 3 years. 2018 was the first year I seriously considered walking away and finding something else to do, and here’s why. I’m sick and tired of those people who should be supporting each other but prefer instead to put their own egoes front and centre. This is not what the antiscam community is supposed to be, but this is what it’s becoming more and more each day. The biggest worry is that from experience I see it only getting worse. Eventually it’s going to get to the stage where only a select few voices will be heard, no matter how wrong what they’re saying is. On that day, I’m off to watch cat videos on Youtube or something. Remember, a lot of people do this for no money or desire for adulation. They do it purely because they want to help people. Keep discouraging those, and what’ll you be left with?

More memories.

After posting up about some of the memories from the past thirteen years, a bunch more have come to me, so here’s some more:

Having a scammer rant about “The blood of Jesus” and “Holy Ghost fire” for 90 minutes on the phone because he didn’t like Firefly’s accent.

Sipping on a freshly opened coconut in Mexico.

Persuading a scammer to spend another night in another part of the country in order to meet someone who was never there.

Having people call me at 3am expecting help, despite clear warnings not to do so.

Finding out a scammer I’d baited had given my details to another scammer, then watching them running away from the next cubicle where they were working when they got the webcam pointed at them.

“Panti Claus”.

Speaking to someone days before they were being sentenced for being a money mule for scammers, even though they’d already been to prison once for doing it.

Being threatened by a company for having a post with their name as part of a scam format on our forum, posting their name almost 50 times in the thread and ending up with an apology from them.

The absolute feeling of dread when finding out someone had taken their own life after being victimized by a scammer we’d posted the details of just a few days before.

Being asked to help someone close down a blog a scammer had made using webcam footage of her from when she was 14 years old that she had no idea existed for 8 years.

Listening to a scammer have an argument with a soundboard of himself from a few weeks ago.

The very first romance scammer I spoke to, and the vow to never deal with another one due to feeling utterly grossed out by it.

The very next romance scammer I spoke to, after deciding to gross the scammers out 10x more than I felt that first night, leading to 6 years of specializing in baiting romance scammers.

Receiving handwritten letters and photographs from a particularly innovative Russian scammer as a way to make it look genuine.

EXIF data revealing the real identity of a scammer that had posed for a photo, then Photoshopped a different face over his own.

Being told by someone I’d helped earlier that he had managed to stop his son losing hundreds of dollars with seconds to spare after using the information he’d learned to spot that he was being scammed.

Pretending to be NASA.

The crazy call that involved a scammer pretending to be the Pope praying for a talking hamster (played by Slaphappy), while we popped his limbs back onto his body after he was torn apart by a dog (played by a dog, who was the only one of us not lying about his identity).

Having to call the police after a victim threatened to bomb a mall.

Sitting in with a victim as she gave a statement to the police, and watching their reaction.

The numerous songs we persuaded scammers to sing, including some really stupid ones.

Seeing myself on TV for the first time.

I think that more than covers it now.  There’s still likely other stories I could tell, but time to move on from this subject.

 

Thirteen years of memories.

It’s been thirteen years since I joined the antiscam community.  A lot has happened in that time, certainly too much to actually tell the stories.  Instead I’m going to just name the incidents in no particular order.  Each one could be a headline for a story that I may go into in more detail at some point.  You can preface each one with “I remember the time I….”

Convinced a scammer his email had caused me to shoot my wife.

Heard the worst singing scammer ever.

Was accused of being a racist because I insulted the outfit a female was wearing in a photo I was sent by a scammer.

Was called a “drunkard and a drug addict” by a scammer.

Had the same scammer tell a bedtime story to my “daughter”.

Had the same scammer then insist on having me talk to his own daughter, who turned out to be him attempting a high pitched voice.

Flew for the first time so I could attend a conference in America.

Drove 2000 miles so I wouldn’t have to fly to a conference.

Convinced a scammer to pretend to shove a banana up his bum to give himself an orgasm – on the radio!

Met Jeremy Kyle.

Met Jeremy Kyle again, and had him ask me about stuff he’d remembered us talking about the previous time.

Stood outside a hotel in the middle of the night due to a fire (not my doing).

Had a scammer wander around Swansea looking for me, while I was sat at home on the phone to him.

Did my first podcast.

Was distracted by a pigeon whilst being recorded for TV.

Made some great friends.

Made some enemies.

Blanked Firefly the first time we met as I didn’t recognise her from her photo.

Was suckered into creating scamsurvivors.com

Had the proof copy of my first book arrive in the post.

Realised not everyone in this community is as altruistic as I am.

Had my first death threat from a scammer.

Had our first DDoS attack on the site, that was so big it took down over 100 other sites on the same node.

Drove everyone mad with the constant changing of our site logo.

Did a radio interview in a supermarket car park.

Received our first sextortion victim.

Was called a dictator by another site.

Saw the site go down for almost a month due to a faulty hard drive.

Had a scammer join our chat room asking for our help, convinced it was to help scammers.

Was threatened with legal action by the owner of a model’s site, only to have him join our forum three months later to tell us he’d put a link to us on their front page.

Introduced Firefly and Big Al to caravan holidays, Cornish pasties and scrumpy.

Won an award.

Had my mind go completely blank on live radio whilst trying to remember the word “profile”.

Witnessed others stealing our work for their own gains.

Had way too much interest taken into my t-shirt choices.

There are many more, but that’s just a small sampling of some of the stuff that’s happened in these past 13 years.  If you’d like to hear more details about any particular one, let me know and I’ll expand on it.

Romance scams aren’t just about romance.

At the conference I mentioned in an earlier post, a question was asked whether a romance victim had ever been subjected to a “black money” scam as part of it.  That gave me the chance to tell them about the time that had happened to someone I was helping.  It also begs the question, what other scams are done as part of a romance scam.  People know about the “I love you, I need money” part, but let’s look at some variations people may not know about:

Sextortion.  Scammers can ask for “intimate” images or video, and it’s not just for their own titillation.  Once a person finally sees they’re talking to a scammer and refuses to send any more money, the scammer can then use those images as a threat and demand more money to stop them being posted online.

Muling.  This can involve money, stolen goods or even drugs.  A parcel asked to be forwarded may have been paid for with a stolen credit card, the money they ask a person to accept into their bank account and then sent on via money transfer could be from another victim and there have even been cases where people have been tricked into unwittingly smuggling drugs.

The fake courier.  People are told not to send money or goods to people they’ve never met, but what if it appears to be the other way around.  A scam that’s becoming increasingly popular involves a fake website pretending to be a courier service.  The scammer claims to have sent gifts or even money to the person, then gives them the URL of the fake site as a convincer.  When additional fees are requested, it’s not the scammer’s persona asking for it, but what appears to be a legitimate company, and for goods already sent.

The true identity/sponsorship.  In this scenario, the victim has finally realised that they’ve been scammed and confronted the scammer.  His response is to admit everything, tell the “truth” and claim they really did fall in love with them or that they’re only doing this to make ends meet.  If only they could find someone to sponsor them, they wouldn’t need to do this shameful thing.  It’s a safe bet to assume you all can guess who would be a perfect sponsor.

Recovery scams.  The victim has lost money, maybe finally broken free from the scammer, and then they receive an email claiming to be from law enforcement.  The scammer has been arrested and they can get the money back.  Of course, it’ll involve paying some admin fees, yadda yadda yadda….  The end result is the victim sucked into a new scam and sending even more money to the same scammer while trying to chase back the money they already lost.

These are just a few of the side scams that can be done.  It’s never a simple case of “Hello, I love you, won’t you send me some cash”.