Cyber-Vigilantes take on Indian Scammers

 

No Tech Support ScamsEver gotten a strange pop-up claiming your computer has a virus? Gotten an email supposedly from Microsoft or Amazon that looks shady? Received a phone call where a person with an Indian accent claiming to have an American name tells you something is wrong with your computer, or that you have a refund from Amazon? Most likely, you are about to get scammed.

These scammers typically will request access to your computer via remote desktop software, and they will take advantage of people lacking detailed knowledge of their computers and the Internet. They particularly prey on the elderly and most of them lack any compassion whatsoever. They will take the last dollar from a disabled veteran and laugh at the “stupid rich American.” The Indian justice system is overwhelmed and has even more cases of buying their way out of jail than ours. Seemingly, there is no solution.

Enter a group of hackers and pranksters who fight back. This type of cyber-vigilante justice is known as scambaiting.

The most basic type of scambaiters are those that waste the scammer’s time. Kitboga is one of the best at this. Here he is taking apart a utility scammer – with the Cashapp team on chat with closing accounts as before they could be used.

Then you have the actual hackers. They will often steal and delete the scammer’s files, lock the scammer’s computer, or in some cases upload malware/viruses onto the scammer’s machine. It’s very satisfying to listen to scammers rage as their records go up in smoke, and their computer is rendered completely unable to boot up. These guys will often dox the scammer and use their records to warn people of the scam. Sometimes they are able to stop the scam in real-time – warning the victim just in time.

ScammerRevolts is a mix of hacker and prankster. He likes to destroy scammer computers then call them to mock the scammer. It’s juvenile, sure, but intensely satisfying. Most of his work is not CoC compliant in language – he learned enough Hindi to curse fluently. This is a compilation of some of his best work – definitely profane language there, so you have been warned.

Scambaiter is a Dutch hacker who has utterly wrecked scammer cell centers. He’s dedicated and relentless, and works hard to defeat scammers as thoroughly as possible. He’s saved several victims in the nick of time, and he’s one of the two people in the field I donate money toward. The following is one of his best videos. [Content Warning.]

The grandmaster of the field is Jim Browning. His name is feared in scammer circles, because he is scarily competent as a hacker. He was doing what the above hackers do today back in 2017. As for now, he gets detailed information on scammers, dissects the scam strategy, and reports it to the police. He always takes care to help the victims or to stop the scam however possible. [Content Warning.]

His crowning achievement involved managing to gain complete access to a scam call center, including surveillance cameras and all financial records. He got significant help from Indian colleagues, including drone footage and in-person visits. (Most of these videos have Indian people in the comments cheering on the scambaiters, because they hate the scammers.) He brought in the BBC Panorama news team, who went over to India to investigate. (Actual investigative journalism – will wonders never cease?) The resulting bad publicity got the people in charge of the call center arrested. [Content Warning.]

With all of the mayhem in the political world, I figure you might enjoy some stories of justice being done, and criminals getting payback. Also, if you can help share knowledge of the scams with friends and relatives, we can all help stop the scammers.

Published in Technology
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  1. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    I admire greatly the people who have the talent and patience for this sort of reversal. I remember an account years ago of one such who was dealing with the then-pervasive “Nigerian Prince” email scams – his various means of baiting were hilarious. He got them to turn over bank records, photo IDs, and, in one especially memorable case, the guy paying for local recording studio time to narrate several chapters of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Sometimes he would turn these over to authorities, where there was a serious danger, but mostly he was having a bit of a lark.

    Still and all, those scams were chump change compared to the massive call center and virus factories today.

    • #1
  2. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

     This is great to know and very interesting. Thank you for the post! 

    • #2
  3. Retail Lawyer Member
    Retail Lawyer
    @RetailLawyer

    Just yesterday I was looking at a website I was directed to for a retirement account disbursement that claimed to be mandatory. The browser was taken over by a message alerting me to a virus and offered a remedy of calling “Apple Technical Support”. Apple would never promote their technical support at all, especially on a page that rendered conventional control impossible. But I called the number just to see . . .

    I asked if it was really Apple technical support.

    “What is your concern?”, the Indian asked.

    “That you will want access to my computer to do something bad”

    “Then you should take your machine to a local repair shop”

    So they are getting more efficient identifying people the scam won’t work on.

    • #3
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    This sounds like fun. I’d like to watch those but they’re on YouTube. I don’t want to contribute to the destruction of the American Republic through censorship. Accordingly, my YouTube consumption is down about 90 percent and these would certainly put me way over my limit for the day. So I’ll wait until they appear on some other video site.

    • #4
  5. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    They are doing great work. I can identify a scammer well, and have received dozens of scam phone calls purportedly from Apple, notifying me of “unusual activity on my account”, which is impossible. I don’t know what I did before Caller ID.

    • #5
  6. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    They are doing great work. I can identify a scammer well, and have received dozens of scam phone calls purportedly from Apple, notifying me of “unusual activity on my account”, which is impossible. I don’t know what I did before Caller ID.

    If you answer, they will come. Why answer?

    • #6
  7. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    The United States should have letters of Marque and pay in millions and bitcoin.

    • #7
  8. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    They are doing great work. I can identify a scammer well, and have received dozens of scam phone calls purportedly from Apple, notifying me of “unusual activity on my account”, which is impossible. I don’t know what I did before Caller ID.

    If you answer, they will come. Why answer?

    But I don’t answer. Actually, when I get one of those scam calls or anything else I spot as a robo-call I pick up and then put down the receiver to disconnect their auto-dialer. 

    • #8
  9. KarenZiminski Coolidge
    KarenZiminski
    @KarenZiminski

    Just the past couple of days I have been getting emails from Geek Squad and the title line is something about recent billing. I figured it was some sort of phishing thing and deleted without opening. Good to know my instincts were right. I know of two men who were astute businessmen in their day who lost pretty much everything in their old age to scammers. 

    Hey, seniors, if you have the slightest suspicion, get a trustworthy smart younger person to help you if you get a phone call or email that seems phishy. We all suffer brain shrinkage as we get older.

    • #9
  10. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    They are doing great work. I can identify a scammer well, and have received dozens of scam phone calls purportedly from Apple, notifying me of “unusual activity on my account”, which is impossible. I don’t know what I did before Caller ID.

    If you answer, they will come. Why answer?

    But I don’t answer. Actually, when I get one of those scam calls or anything else I spot as a robo-call I pick up and then put down the receiver to disconnect their auto-dialer.

    If you know the scam, you have answered the call. And they will try again. 

    • #10
  11. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    They are doing great work. I can identify a scammer well, and have received dozens of scam phone calls purportedly from Apple, notifying me of “unusual activity on my account”, which is impossible. I don’t know what I did before Caller ID.

    If you answer, they will come. Why answer?

    But I don’t answer. Actually, when I get one of those scam calls or anything else I spot as a robo-call I pick up and then put down the receiver to disconnect their auto-dialer.

    If you know the scam, you have answered the call. And they will try again.

    Not necessarily. They keep records on responses – including guys who who reject them. They are not stupid – if someone says they want to eat their computer with fava bean and a nice Chianti, they are going to get filed as a waste of time.

    • #11
  12. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    They are doing great work. I can identify a scammer well, and have received dozens of scam phone calls purportedly from Apple, notifying me of “unusual activity on my account”, which is impossible. I don’t know what I did before Caller ID.

    If you answer, they will come. Why answer?

    But I don’t answer. Actually, when I get one of those scam calls or anything else I spot as a robo-call I pick up and then put down the receiver to disconnect their auto-dialer.

    If you know the scam, you have answered the call. And they will try again.

    Not necessarily. They keep records on responses – including guys who who reject them. They are not stupid – if someone says they want to eat their computer with fava bean and a nice Chianti, they are going to get filed as a waste of time.

    Or as a live person who will answer a cold call and may respond to a different scam.

    • #12
  13. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    There a lot of scams out there. My favorite is the robo-call; “You have a warrant for your arrest.” the caller then gives you a phone number to make financial arrangements to avoid arrest.

    I’ll let you in on a police procedure secret. Police officer’s don’t call you and ask you if you’re going to be home so they can serve a warrant. 

    • #13
  14. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    There a lot of scams out there. My favorite is the robo-call; “You have a warrant for your arrest.” the caller then gives you a phone number to make financial arrangements to avoid arrest.

    I’ll let you in on a police procedure secret. Police officer’s don’t call you and ask you if you’re going to be home so they can serve a warrant.

    Maybe not exactly, but we had an undergrad student who was in some special summer program and then was given the chance to work off an unpaid housing bill. Anyhow, I was assigned the task of finding work for him, which I did. It wasn’t too demanding but did require some thinking and care, and he was able to do it in an adequate fashion. I remember the morning he came to work and had trouble staying awake; he explained that he had been up all night because a sister’s boyfriend had been shot, or some such thing. I didn’t disbelieve it.

    One day I got a phone call from the main campus police. The officer asked for the kid, who was not around at the time. He then asked if I was his supervisor, and then asked, “Are you aware that there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest?” I wasn’t. The officer then asked me to pass on a message that he should give this officer a call. When I next saw the kid I passed on the message, and that was the last I heard of it. I did inform my boss about it, and it was the only time in all the years I knew him that I heard him utter an expletive.

    Somehow in those days I was always the one who was supposed to find work for students my boss was trying to help out. I didn’t always appreciate that, especially when it was for doctoral students or even those who had just got their PhD and needed some work to tide them over until they got a real job. I didn’t like that because the work I had for those people was not in line with their career goals, and I preferred having people who were intensely serious and ambitious about their work. Sometimes it worked out OK anyway. One was a friend with whom I’d get into heated political arguments. Sometimes it was so heated that we were yelling at each other in the hallway. But it was OK, because when it was time to get back to work we’d turn it off and resume our work, at which he provided good enough value for the money we were spending on him, even though it was not work in line with his ambitions. He went on to become a successful tenured professor at a big university. I came to miss that generation of grad students, because it wasn’t the same with the next generation, with whom there could be no disagreement without it getting personal. I quit arguing politics with them when those started coming along.

    • #14
  15. Ray Kujawa Coolidge
    Ray Kujawa
    @RayKujawa

    It happened to me one time that I called up a guy (of course with and Indian accent), and when he asked for my IP address in order to remote himself onto my computer, which I knew to be risky because that is how they fix your computer at work, I knew it had to be a scam. Not asking the right questions, etc., a didn’t give him anything further and ended after a brief conversation. I was at first curious that my laptop could even get a virus or get some kind of pop up message. I didn’t elect to run or purchase the diagnostic program. I just backed out as best I could and restarted my machine. I doesn’t hardly happen anymore.

    • #15
  16. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Fantastic. I get dozens of calls weekly and don’t know what to do other than hang up. What can those of us without computer skills do? 

    • #16
  17. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    I get a scam call about once every couple of weeks. They call my land line which is an immediate indicator of their lack of legitimacy. The people I want to talk to have my cellphone number. Everyone else can go pound sand. 

    The scams that have been attempted, based on the messages left on my answering machine, are either computer related or alleged to be from the IRS. The computer related calls are supposed to be from Apple. I do have an iMac. I have also gotten a series of calls that bordered on being harrassment, they were so frequent. This was an organization that started their spiel by saying that I had stayed in one of their resorts recently. I never stay in resorts, so that one got an immediate hang up, and I blocked the number. They came back with another number, and another after I blocked that one, and yet another. This went on until I called the phone company and had them put a block on the system that permanently locked them out. 

    I suppose that I fit into that demographic being 75 years old and retired. However, I was the tech supervisor for my school building when I was teaching and have maintained pretty good skills. I have had enough contact with Apple’s tech support to know their normal procedures. As far as the IRS goes, I know how they work, and that is never via a phone call. If they have something to tell you they send a letter. So, for me, spam calls are more of a nuisance than a threat. The only reason I maintain a landline is because I have DSL. I am currently on a waiting list to get a cellular internet connection being introduced into my area. Once that happens, no more spam calls. For now, they can talk to my answering machine.

    • #17
  18. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    The only reason I maintain a landline is because I have DSL.

    When we built our retirement home in KY the only good option for an ISP was DSL so I had to get a phone line but I never connected a handset to it. I had a phone number and a listing in the local phone book but no phone connected to it. When the company installed fiber optic cables I was able to drop the land line which I never wanted anyway. Fortunately I get only a few spam calls on my cell phone and the new phone I got at Christmas warns me they are suspected as scams.

    • #18
  19. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    I hope the cyber vigilantes one day decide to go after the robo-callers selling extended auto warranties. If you’ve called me 100 times and I’ve never bitten, why do you think continued calls will make me buy?

    • #19