A lot of my writing is advice and warnings about the variety of scams and scammers out there.   This time though, I’m going to turn the tables and talk about some of the efforts being made to thwart the scammers.    In particular, Kitboga, the online persona of a scammer of scammers.

One of the most popular (and most lucrative) techniques being used by scammers is pop-ups that take over your screen and warn you that you have a virus.   The scam will present you with a telephone number to call which will apparently rid you of the virus.

Well, this is just the start of the scam.   Once you call the number, they’ll ask to take control of the computer.   From here they’ll pretend to fix the problem (hint – there is no problem), but they’ll also charge you around $200 to $400 for the “so called” repair.   Worse, they may end up erasing the computer, or placing an actual virus on there even though you paid.

In 2015 Microsoft estimated that 3.3 million Americans would end up paying over $1.5 billion dollars to these type of scammers – so there’s a lot of incentive for them to keep pushing harder to catch more people.   In 2017, they received 153,000 reports of scams, which was an increase of 24% since 2016.

The scammers are typically located in India.   Here it’s cheap to employ call centers – with hundreds of staff to man the phones and answer the calls for help.

Here’s where “Kitboga” comes in (he goes by the false name to avoid retaliation).  His aim is to waste the time of the scammers – if he can tie up a scammer.  After all, they can’t be defrauding you of money if they’re talking to someone else

He starts by using a voice translator to sound older.   The scammers tend to prey on seniors who aren’t as confident with computers.    He deliberately calls the scammer numbers as they’re discovered (they keep changing numbers).

From here the goal is to string the scammer along and waste as much time as possible.  He then makes money by recording these calls and streaming them online.   The entertainment comes from the battle to keep the scammers “hooked”, and yet making the calls as ridiculous as possible.

When he started off streaming – he’d get 10 or so people watching the call live.  This gradually grew as news spread and more people tuned in to hear the comedy.  Eventually it kept growing, and now Kitboga works full time, scamming the scammers.   I can’t think of a more satisfying way to make a living!

Eventually, after wasting as much time as he thinks is possible, he’ll switch off the voice translation and own up to who he really is.  He explains his disappointment in how they can spend every day swindling innocent people.  Usually this results in the scammer hanging up immediately, however sometimes they actually show remorse.   In-fact some of the conversations he’s had with the scammers have actually revealed more about the conditions and circumstances that have led to them taking the role.   Some of them have taken jobs, believing they were actually providing true tech support, only to later discover the truth.   Some of them get trapped in the position after being conned themselves by unscrupulous employers.

So, what can you do?   Well, firstly be aware that these scams are around – and not fall for them.   If you do get a call maybe string them along a little, but don’t let them turn the tables on you.   Know that they’re trying to make a living, but also be aware that they’re trying to con you at the same time.  Be polite, explain that you know what’s going on and maybe try and convince them to get a more ethical job!

Until next time – don’t get scammed!