It’s only taken 8 years, but we finally have a book to go with the site. For those unaware, we have a sister site (well, more a redheaded stepchild) called StupidScammers.com that we place any funny scammer quotes at. We finally had enough to make a book out of them, so that’s exactly what we did. It was a blast to write and we hope that if you get a copy you’ll enjoy it too. It’s available in paperback as well as Kindle format. To find it, simply search for “The Stupid Scammer Files” on Amazon. You can even take a peek between the pages there to get an idea of how the book is.
Now the dust has settled on 2019 and our hangovers have finally been shaken off (though some scammers still insist on sending us “HAPPY NEW YEAR” emails), let’s take a look at how we did last year. The results are skewed due to our switching to a Cloudflare account partway through the year, so take these with a grain of salt.
We had over 1,234,000 unique visitors visit us last year. That doesn’t include bots etc. It’s how many actual people we had visit the site. Each person viewed an average of over 6 pages each, and our bandwidth was over 630GB.
As for the threads/posts, here are the stats as gathered by Big Al:
Am I Being Scammed 27 added topics
Blackmail 1067 added topics
419 scams 3309 added topics
Romance 459 added topics
Refugee 27 added topics
Fake sites 78 added topics
Bank Accounts reported 662
Victim warning attempts 1709
Not bad going, right? Here’s hoping that those numbers are even bigger in 2020.
Let me start this by saying I’ve been married for over a quarter of a century. My wife and I met way before we had dating sites online, and we didn’t even get the internet until 4 or 5 years after we got married. On a completely unrelated topic, the first scam email I ever received was almost immediately after I first joined the internet connected world. That’s by the by though. Let’s discuss love, romance and scammers.
I buy my wife flowers on a semi regular basis. I’m a romantic guy – kind of. The reality is though that my wife and I both understand that paying bills and keeping the pantry full is more important than flowers, chocolates or jewelry. Romance scammers however don’t have this reality block to deal with.
Scammers can promise a person the Sun, Moon, stars and everything inbetween as they know they’ll never actually have to deliver. Words are cheap, false promises even cheaper. I (and the rest of the site volunteers) have baited enough romance scammers to know and see through their lies. Not everyone can though, and it’s for those people we post up all the details of any romance scammers we deal with. We want people to see that the scammers can and do use every trick in the book to convince people they’re genuine. Those tricks are easy to spot if you know what to look for, and know how romance scammers work. THAT is the tough part. The pretty lies the scammers tell make it incredibly hard for us to break through to some people. The fantasy world the scammer weaves is something people long for, and don’t want to believe is fake. Real love isn’t perfect. Real love is accepting a person’s flaws, not being convinced by them that they don’t have any. Scammer love is and endless display of promises that never happen and never will happen. Real love is much more gutteral, more earthy, more REAL. There’s a song I love by The Kinks that perfectly describes what real love is like. It’s not perfect like a scammer will try to convince you it is. It’s an uphill struggle that requires the both of you to work at each and every day and doesn’t require one person to constantly send money to the other one. That’s not real love. Real love is a two-headed transplant – a “labour of love”. Don’t be fooled by scammer love, and never send money to someone you’ve only ever met online, no matter what they promise you in return.
Recently we’ve had a few people contact us saying that scammers are abusing their name. We have a pretty standard reply to that, and I’ll lay it out here. Scammers use these names as they feel they can do so with impunity. It’s not a good feeling to see your good name being abused by scammers, and we totally sympathise with people about it. However, asking for the thread to be removed, or the person’s/business’ name removed from the thread does a lot more harm than good. Let me explain it this way. Imagine the place you live. A neighbour has been phoning people up claiming to be you and asking them if they can borrow some money, with no plan whatsoever to pay it back. People are eventually going to approach you asking for that money you lent them several months back. What would be the natural reaction to that, to want to hide from everyone the fact that the person is pretending to be you and allow them to continue, or to let everyone know that the asshole is stealing money from people by using your name and make sure no one else falls for it and will blame them and not you? Exactly, right? It’s the same thing with online scammers. The absolute best thing to do is to let everyone know what’s happening. We’ve seen a charity that helped children in Africa do it after a particularly evil scammer pretended to be them. We’ve seen people do it after they were contacted and even threatened after people lost money to scammers pretending to be them. We’ve seen charities do it after scammers tried to say they were the boss. Trying to get the information removed only allows the scammers to continue abusing the good names of people. Warning people and publicly distancing themselves from the scam is the absolute best way to go in these cases. Make it so that if anyone does even an ounce of searching they’ll be warned away from the scam and the scammer will eventually change script to something that works better. It’s never going to stop it 100%. That horse has already bolted. It will however help minimise any damage the scammer does in his quest for easy money.
Way back then, when I first started baiting scammers, there were a lot of things being done that were deemed fine, but are frowned upon now. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to have gotten the message. Let’s look at some things that most baiting sites actively discourage people from doing.
Cash baiting. This involves flipping the script and persuading the scammer to send YOU money. Some people would keep the money, others would give it to charity. The problem is that, in most cases it’s not the scammer’s money being sent, but an unwitting victim.
Burning the scammer. This is when you tell the scammer that you know he’s a scammer. The big issue with this is that the scammer will learn from the experience. You’re in essence educating the scammer and making him better for the next person he talks to. This leads us on to:
Educating the scammer. When a scammer makes a mistake, don’t correct him on it. If his email still has Obama as president for example, don’t let him know. Far better is to DEeducate the scammer. Keep him making mistakes that can help others spot he’s not genuine.
Sending a scammer money. Yes, people have actually done this, claiming it was to prove they were a scammer. If a scammer receives money, then it encouages him to continue scamming and helps fund his continued life of crime.
Shut down their email addresses. Now, technically we don’t condone this completely. If a scammer has an email address for example that utilises a fake website to make his scam appear more genuine, then that’s fair game, and we will actively work toward shutting the site down. What we’re talking about here are email addresses set up using free hosts. Killing scamname1@ isn’t going to make the scammer go “Well then, time to go find some honest work I guess”. They expect and often prepare for exactly those cases. Many have a number of accounts already set up, so the worst you’ll do is inconvenience them for a short amount of time.
Making victims into baiters when they’re not strong enough to. Not everyone has what it takes to become a baiter. Victims may want “revenge”, but blindly recommending any victim you speak to become a baiter can put them at even more risk. There are cases where ex victims (or “survivors” as we call them) become great baiters, but those cases are rare. I’ve even seen people who were in no way ready to deal with other scammers create websites. It’s genuinely scary when you read their Tweets and can see they’re not over their own scam yet, but telling others what to do.
Sending scammers a virus. This is illegal, and that frankly should be enough. Let’s elaborate further though. Their infected PC then infects those of innocent people. Not so funny now, is it?
Involving innocent third parties. Giving a scammer details of someone else not involved in scambaiting is a definite no no now. If they’re not a part of the scam or the bait, then there’s no excuse to bring them in without their knowledge.
There are other things frowned upon these days, but I’d say those are the main ones.
I’ve been doing this antiscam thing for a long time. To give you an idea of just how long, I was in my mid 30s when I first started and now I’m getting close to being able to get over 50s life insurance. Suffice to say I (and in the same token those who have been by my side for a considerable percentage of it) have a lot of knowledge of both how scammers work and ways to fight back against them. Every so often we’ll receive a request for help relating to what we do. Most times the first conversation we have will be for maybe 20 or 30 minutes. Sometimes it can go on for an hour or so. In that time, we try to explain how the scams work, what we do, how we do what we do, dispel any common myths and try to give them a reasonable expectation of what can actually be achieved. It’s a lot to take in, and sometimes it may be too much to take in. There have been times when we’ve frightened people away. There have also been times when we’ve left people with their heads spinning from so much information. We don’t do this deliberately. Most of the time anyway. It’s incredibly hard to compress all those years’ worth of antiscam experience into a 30 minute conversation. Add in our passion for what we do, and the person on the other end of the line can be easily overwhelmed. Sorry, but not sorry. You speak to us and you’re going to get that passion, that desire to share as much information as possible and that dull ache in the back of your head when it all becomes too much. It’s all part of the package.
At the time of writing this, it’s just a few short weeks until the 14th anniversary of my falling down this rabbit hole. People have made a lot of assumptions, one that we work hand in hand with the police. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not denying the fact we do on occasion work with law enforcement, not that law enforcement has in fact contacted us asking for help/advice/an explanation into how we managed to track down the real person behind a particular scam. On occasion we’ve even been asked to be put in touch with other victims of a particular scammer. Here’s where it gets difficult though.
Sometimes we’re contacted by law enforcement asking us to plug a particular service they provide, to put a link on our site or to share a hashtag. In almost every case we politley refuse. Why? Well, there’s several reasons.
Firstly, why should we? This may sound selfish, but let me jump you back several years when we found the National Crime Agency had taken our work (and by “our” work, I mean words I’d likely rewritten a dozen or so times until I was completely happy with them) on sextortion and included it in their press release, a year after meeting with me to seek out my experiences on the scam. All well and good you may think, but this was done without our knowledge, permission or even acknowledgement. Imagine seeing the words you’d written, rewritten, deleted, written once again and ultimately rearranged many times used by someone else, who then told people who were dealing with that particular problem to go to sites who had NOTHING to do with the scam, but were under the same umbrella as them. Yes, that left a bad taste in our mouths that remains to this day.
Secondly, why bother? As I said earlier, I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve seen hashtags come and go, I’ve seen campaigns start in a blaze of publicity, to practically disappear within weeks. If we supported a particular movement, what’s to say it’ll still be around in a year’s time? Better to stand clear of them all and not get snared into putting your name against the LE equivelent of Betamax or HD DVD.
Thirdly, what have they done for us? Think about this one, something that has happened to me on more than one occasion. I get a call out of the blue from a policeman I’ve never spoken to before asking for me to put a link on our site to a campaign that’s never once so much as looked our way before, who the only dealings I’ve had with were due to one of them being in the same conference as me, and who pretty much looked down his nose at the work we do becasue we’re not Government funded. I’m happy enough to help out where I can, but I firmly believe in “quid pro quo”. Help among various agencies should never be a one way street. If we can help, we’re happy to help, but we’re not a charity and we’re not being paid for this. We do this purely because we want to help people. Common decency says there has to be reciprocation. If not, then I see no reason to help.
Fourthly, “screw those guys”. I’ll keep this one short, as I could rant for hours over it. If you’re going to try and belittle the around 40 years’ combined knowledge our volunteers have because you’ve never personally experienced one of the scams we have, why the hell should we give you the time of day? You’ve never seen it, so it must not exist? Screw you!
And fifthly, the “Action Fraud” effect. ScamSurvivors is independant, receives no government funding and has fought tooth and nail to be in the position where we’re at right now, where some people see us as “experts” and trust the information we share with them. the last thing we want is to be tarred with the same brush as organisations that have been outed in the public as not caring about the people who contact them. We care. We care enough to give up all our free time to help people. We care enough to do this for free, to have put our own money into it, and we care enough to have been doing this for a number of years.
There are instances where we’ve worked with law enforcement or government agencies, but they’re few and far between. It takes a lot to get us to trust you, and a single moment to blow that trust. We are always going to walk on the side of caution, and if that means we have a smaller profile then so be it. We are proud to be ScamSurvivors, and we wil never compromise our principles for anyone.
We’ve spoken in earlier blog posts about what we will and won’t post on our forums. There’s another one that we haven’t mentioned yet, and this one is related to sextortion scams. There are people out there that make a living as dominatrixes. It’s a sub culture I personally have no interest in, nor any judgment about, similar to cam girls. I’ve actually had conversations with former Pinay scammers I dealt with, who switched to becoming cam girls and contacted me to let me know. This is how I see it. You agree to a contract with the person, and so long as both sides give/get what they agreed, then we can’t call it a scam. If, hypothetically, I paid a female $50 to strip naked on webcam for me and she strips naked on webcam for me, then both parties have followed through with their side of the deal. I’m not a lawyer, nor am I law enforcement. In the same vein, if someone agrees to be a financial domme and the other a financial sub, if both parties do what they agreed to, who am I to judge? I have enough to deal with as it is with the scams we receive every day. Again, this is just my opinion. If someone writes to us and says “Mistress Melania” (a name I made up purely for the alliteration value) has taken money from them, there’s nothing we can do. They both agreed to play their parts at the beginning, and they both did. If it’s a fake findomme, then yes that’s another story. However, if there was no hiding the fact that’s the agreement the person was entering into, we won’t post the details up on our forum. It’s a variation of “ignorance of the law is no excuse” would be the best way to describe our stance on it. More power (or “domme”) to those who make a living that way.
Way back in the 1980s, I did my electronics O’level exam among others. It’s a subject I’ve always loved for most of my approaching 50 years on this planet, and the reason I would rather tear down a server than install a website on it. One of the basics we were taught way back then is that electrons will always follow the path of least resistance. Simply put, electricity will always flow in the easiest route from A to B. Imagine it like water trying to flow from high to low round. Of course, we have to make a comparison with scammers to justify this post. Simply put, a scammer will always use the simplest method to make money. Despite the scams being 14+ years old, the same methods are used. Why? Because they work and they’re easy. Want to get money from a young male? Sex is the answer. A female who isn’t into the “lovey dovey” stuff? Hit them with a fictional child. Greed? Offer them millions. Pure and trusting? Throw them a sob story as part of a charity scam. Very, very rarely are there new scams. 99 out of 100 times it’s simply the same old scam we’ve seen before, polished and presented as something new. Scammers are lazy and complacent in most instances. If they think a script from 10 years ago will work, then they’ll use that script. It’s all about, to quote John Wetton from way back in 1973, “Easy Money”.
We’ve been told about a “company” that supposedly helps victims of sextortion. I’d already seen their videos, which are a joke. Today though I was given more information after someone we previously helped actually called them up. Here’s what the email said:
I ended up giving them a call and was reached out to by someone who said they have several plans based on length of time and cost (ex. 1500 dollars for 9-5 support for a month up to 20000 for 3 days 24-hour surveillance). The guy sounded extremely confident and very knowledgeable on the phone but it seemed fishy as they have literally no reviews but he was claiming they have locations all over the world with ties to local police. Their proposed plan of attack is to track the person blackmailing you (which you guys have said isn’t really possible as they are hiding behind fake profiles etc.) and reach out to them and tell them to back down or they are going to contact local law enforcement. I said I’d call them back and never did they also said your proposed method (which is the one that I went with and I’m glad I did) wouldn’t work and then they tried to scare me into saying they were going to doctor the videos and still release everything anyway and that going into hiding would not work.”
What complete and utter bullshit! Everything they say is wrong. The videos they have up on YouTube are ridiculous, making it appear as if they do forensic examinations of your hardware, rather than tell the scammer “Don’t do it again or we’ll call the cops”. Yeah, like that’s going to work! The simple truth is, what they’re doing is dangerous and can cause much more trouble for the person. They claim ” We have a success rate of more than 90 percent for keeping these criminals from ever sharing our clients’ personal and private images and information”. 90% is good. No, wait, 90% is terrible as it still means 10% sent this company money and got no useful help. We’ve said time and again that our method works in well over 99% of the cases. It’s also used by law enforcement. On top of that, it’s free. It doesn’t cost anything up to the $20,000 they quote for “3 days 24-hour surveillance”. I mean, sure you can donate a few bucks if you want, but we’re not going to refuse to help you if you don’t.
If you want to see their videos, check out https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDfYaNXa5xraFmvo7lnV6aA and let me know what you think.