Scam baiting

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Scambaiting (or scam baiting) is a form of Internet vigilantism primarily used to thwart advance-fee fraud, technical support scams,[1] pension scams,[2] and consumer financial fraud.[1]

Scambaiters pose as potential victims to waste the time and resources of scammers, gather information useful to authorities, and publicly expose scammers. They may document scammers' tools and methods, warn potential victims, provide discussion forums, disrupt scammers' devices and systems using remote access trojans and computer viruses, or take down fraudulent webpages.[3]

Scambaiters are motivated by a sense of civic duty, some simply engage for their own amusement, some are motivated by racism,[4] or some combination of all three.[3]

Methodology[edit]

For scams conducted via written communication, baiters may answer scam emails using throwaway email accounts, pretending to be receptive to scammers' offers.[5]

For scams dependent upon telephone contact, baiters may consult directories of known scammer numbers; use search tools to locate active scams; call numbers on fake pop-up messages, which may be disguised as official virus warnings or alerts from companies such as Microsoft or Apple; or consult telephone number complaint websites in search of scammers who have used robocalling to lure potential victims into returning their phone calls.[citation needed]

The objectives of scambaiting are, in no particular order:

  1. To extend bait sessions as long as possible, thus costing scammers time and diverting resources that would otherwise be spent on communicating with potential victims (wasting scammers' time).
  2. To identify and publicly expose scammers.
  3. To shut down scam operations.
  4. To ensure that scammers and any names used are easily found on search engines.[citation needed]

Popular methods of accomplishing the first objective are to ask scammers to fill out lengthy questionnaires;[6] to bait scammers into taking long trips; to encourage the use of poorly made props or inappropriate English-language idioms that surreptitiously cast doubt upon their scams.[7]

Baiters may deceive scammers with claims as ludicrous as the ones they have used to defraud their victims; or they may entrap them with Trojan horses, such as remote administration tools, that enables baiters to gain sensitive information from or damage scammers' computers. Baiters may publicly humiliate scammers by live streaming their sessions.[1]

Baiters may use facetious aliases, including references to Western popular culture that, while obviously ludicrous to native or fluent English speakers, will go unnoticed by scammers. They may introduce characters or plot lines from movies or television shows for comedic effect.[citation needed]

Baiters may consult lists of Hindi swear words to abuse the scammer for comedic purposes, especially if they are live streaming or recording a bait session. This is especially common with tech support scams or refund scams since most scams of this nature are operated by Indians.

Examples[edit]

In May 2004, a Something Awful forum poster asked for advice on how to deal with a bogus escrow scam from a buyer on eBay. Since the eBay auction was for an Apple PowerBook G4, another forum poster suggested that he construct a replica PowerBook out of cardboard. The buyer, who lived overseas, was forced to pay several hundred dollars to customs to claim the fake laptop.[5][8] A member of the scambaiting website 419eater.com was able to convince a scammer to send him a wooden replica of a Commodore 64.[9]

In February 2011, the Belgian television show Basta portrayed, with hidden cameras, how a scammer was fooled during a meeting with baiters, raising the stakes by involving a one-armed man, two dwarves and a pony. Eventually, a police raid was faked, during which the baiters were arrested and the scammer went free, abandoning the money, and without any suspicion.[10]

In January 2014, members of 419eater.com appeared in two segments of the Channel 4 show Secrets of the Scammers. In the first segment scambaiters persuaded a scammer to travel from London to a remote location in Cornwall by train and taxi to meet a victim (played by a baiter) and collect payment for a gold deal. In the second segment a female scammer met with two scambaiters posing as victims in Trafalgar Square to pass them a fake check. This scammer was subsequently questioned by the police.[11]

Kitboga [12] is a well-known scambaiter who regularly streams on Twitch and uploads highlights on YouTube. KitBoga (often shortened to Kit) is most well known for baiting refund scammers via fake banks and websites that claim to be a company, so after he pretends to purchase Google Play Cards or other gift cards, he would pretend to redeem them to enrage said Scammers. Kitboga began baiting in mid-2017 after he found out that his grandmother was a victim of many types of scams designed to prey on the elderly, both online and in-person. To misdirect scammers away from his real identity, as well as for viewer entertainment, Kitboga often acts as a number of characters during his videos, including an 80-year-old grandmother named Edna,[13] a valley girl named Nevaeh,[14] or sometimes even a competing technical support scammer named Daniel, those being the most well known. In his videos, Kitboga engages in scambaiting several types of scammers, a majority of whom operate call centers in India. Besides technical support scammers, he also engages with refund scammers, IRS scammers, and others.

In March 2020, an anonymous YouTuber under the alias "Jim Browning" successfully infiltrated and gathered drone and CCTV footage of a fraudulent call centre scam operation through the help of fellow YouTube personality Karl Rock. Through the aid of the British documentary programme Panorama, a police raid was carried out when the documentary was brought to the attention of assistant police commissioner Karan Goel,[15] leading to the arrest of call centre operator Amit Chauhan who also operated a fraudulent travel agency under the name "Faremart Travels".

YouTube and Twitch are popular sources scambaiters use to educate and/or entertain their audience about various types of scams.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "A guide to trolling a tech support scammer (Wired UK)". Wired UK. October 15, 2012. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  2. ^ "This is what a Social Security scam sounds like (FTC.gov)". Federal Trade Commission. December 27, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Zingerle, Andreas; Kronman, Linda (2013). "Humiliating Entertainment or Social Activism? Analyzing Scambaiting Strategies Against Online Advance Fee Fraud". 'Humiliating entertainment or social activism?': Analyzing Scambaiting Strategies Against Online Advance Fee Fraud. pp. 352–355. doi:10.1109/CW.2013.49. ISBN 978-1-4799-2246-8.
  4. ^ Nakamura, Lisa (December 1, 2014). "'I WILL DO EVERYthing That Am Asked': Scambaiting, Digital Show-Space, and the Racial Violence of Social Media". Journal of Visual Culture. 13 (3): 257–274. doi:10.1177/1470412914546845.
  5. ^ a b Rojas, Peter (May 14, 2004). "Scamming the scammer". Engadget. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  6. ^ Ockenden, Will (June 6, 2014). "The dubious "art" of trolling". Social Media Week. Archived from the original on July 12, 2014. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  7. ^ Cheng, Jacqui (May 12, 2009). "Baiting Nigerian scammers for fun (not so much for profit)". Ars Technica. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  8. ^ Roth, Wolf-Dieter (May 28, 2004). "Wir basteln uns ein Apple G4 P-P-P-Powerbook". Telepolis (in German). Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  9. ^ Madrigal, Alexis C. (September 28, 2010). "How to Trick an Online Scammer Into Carving a Computer Out of Wood". The Atlantic. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  10. ^ Pest eens een internetfraudeur Basta on YouTube (in Dutch) Archived 2016-05-08 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Secrets of the Scammers on YouTube
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ D'Anastasio, Cecilia. "This Twitch Streamer Gets Revenge On Tech Support Scammers". Kotaku. Retrieved September 22, 2019.
  14. ^ Angry Tech Support Scammer VS Valley Girl, retrieved September 22, 2019
  15. ^ Dhankhar, Leena (March 4, 2020). "Udyog Vihar call centre duped at least 40,000 in 12 countries; 2 arrested". Hindustan Times. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  16. ^ Rigg, Jamie. "Making a living scamming the scammers". Engadget. Engadget. Retrieved February 3, 2020.

External links[edit]