Scambaiters Are Helping the Growing Victims of Online Scams

Mark Hake

A number of YouTube sites, online operators, and individuals are now fighting back against the hordes of scammers mainly from overseas call centers.

Scammers have become increasingly sophisticated in the past two years or so. Many are now using Zelle to directly debit supposed "refunds" out of victims' accounts.

A very popular YouTube site called Scammer Payback with over 2.35 million viewers as of May 7 has been detailing its "scambaiting" efforts. They are fighting back against scammers, often in India, by acting as old ladies and gaining access to the scammers' computers. Typically they are able to download lists of actual victims and they later contact them to help uninstall various software programs.

Another popular channel is IRLrosie run by Rosie Okumura, 35, an LA-based voice actress who deliberately rings scammers and plays the part of a willing scamee. Her efforts in this scambaiting enterprise were described in detail by a UK magazine called The Guardian, in the article, "Who Scams the Scammers: Meet the scambaiters."

My Own Online Scam Experience

A very popular scam, which even affected me, is the HP support desk. I was having a problem with my HP printer and I went online and did a search for help. I eventually found an online 800 number.

After spending an hour on the phone and granting the Indian help desk access to my computer I later found out that they had downloaded programs on my computer that later gained access to my computer. In the end, I had to eventually change my computer, and router and eventually get a different IP address in order to get out from under the control of the scammer.

Many people like me have become victims by doing searches for help. By not going through a particular company's approved app I fell victim.

After watching the Scammer Payback channel extensively I have learned the following:

  • Scammers often like to get people to download Anydesk, Teamviewer, or related types of software that give them access to a person's laptop or phone.
  • Scammers often try to dupe people to believe that they will provide a refund to the user.
  • Scammers often have much more technical knowledge of computer code and online script.
  • They can manipulate, for example, a person's screen, if they logged into their bank account, as if their account has a zero balance. They then force the person to pay a ransom.

In reality, often the balance has not been affected - it is falsely showing a zero balance on the screen from the online code script manipulation. As a result, no one should make a decision based on talking with the call center person and not dealing directly with the company or bank.

Social Media Scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that many scams now start on social media apps and sites. Moreover, the number of losses has been accelerating. In 2019, total reported losses to these frauds reached $134 million. But by 2021, consumers reported losing about $770 million to fraud initiated on social media. This is an 18-fold increase since 2017.

In 2021 more than 95,000 people reported to the FTC their scam situation saying that they were first contacted on social media. This was more than twice the 2020 number.

Most of these involved online shopping scams. Typically the person bought a product they saw marketed on social media that never arrived. Often this involves Facebook or Instagram, according to the FTC article.

To help counter this activity the FTC has a site at ftc.gov/scams. If you spot a scam, you can report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The FTC's latest Consumer Protection Data Spotlight blog is also very helpful.

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By the way, don't forget to fully "Follow" me and make sure to download the Newsbreak app to become a Registered Follower. This way you can also see all my articles in the past. Click on the link underneath my profile name.

This is not financial advice and you should not rely on my analysis to buy or sell any stock. I am not undertaking to induce you to buy or sell any securities.

I am relying on the “publisher’s exclusion” in the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 to provide this information without any personalized or individualized investment advice.

Mark Hake writes articles on InvestorPlace.com, Barchart.com, Medium.com, and Newsbreak.com on stocks and cryptos.

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Mark Hake is a financial analyst, investor, and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). He writes about US and foreign stocks as well as cryptos, hedge funds, and private equity. He previously ran his own hedge fund, investment research firm, and acted as CFO for a fintech startup. He focuses on finding value, arbitrage, and hidden asset opportunities.

Phoenix, AZ
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