Okumura is a Scambaiter

Three to four days a week, for one or two hours at a time, Rosie Okumura, 35, telephones thieves and messes with their minds. For the past two years, the LA-based voice actor has run a sort of reverse call centre, deliberately ringing the people most of us hang up on – scammers who pose as tax agencies or tech-support companies or inform you that you’ve recently been in a car accident you somehow don’t recall. When Okumura gets a scammer on the line, she will pretend to be an old lady, or a six-year-old girl, or do an uncanny impression of Apple’s virtual assistant Siri. Once, she successfully fooled a fake customer service representative into believing that she was Britney Spears. “I waste their time,” she explains, “and now they’re not stealing from someone’s grandma.”

Okumura is a “scambaiter” – a type of vigilante who disrupts, exposes or even scams the world’s scammers. While scambaiting has a troubled 20-year online history, with early forum users employing extreme, often racist, humiliation tactics, a new breed of scambaiters are taking over TikTok and YouTube. Okumura has more than 1.5 million followers across both video platforms, where she likes to keep things “funny and light”.

I waste their time and now they’re not stealing from someone’s grandma

Rosie Okumura

In April, the then junior health minister Lord Bethell tweeted about a “massive sudden increase” in spam calls, while a month earlier the consumer group Which? found that phone and text fraud was up 83% during the pandemic. In May, Ofcom warned that scammers are increasingly able to “spoof” legitimate telephone numbers, meaning they can make it look as though they really are calling from your bank. In this environment, scambaiters seem like superheroes – but is the story that simple? What motivates people like Okumura? How helpful is their vigilantism? And has a scambaiter ever made a scammer have a change of heart?

Okumura became a scambaiter after her mum was scammed out of $500. In her 60s and living alone, her mother saw a strange pop-up on her computer one day in 2019. It was emblazoned with the Windows logo and said she had a virus; there was also a number to call to get the virus removed. “And so she called and they told her, ‘You’ve got this virus, why don’t we connect to your computer and have a look.” Okumura’s mother granted the scammer remote access to her computer, meaning they could see all of her files. She paid them $500 to “remove the virus” and they also stole personal details, including her social security number.

Thankfully, the bank was able to stop the money leaving her mother’s account, but Okumura wanted more than just a refund. She asked her mum to give her the number she’d called and called it herself, spending an hour and 45 minutes wasting the scammer’s time. “My computer’s giving me the worst vibes,” she began in Kim Kardashian’s voice. “Are you in front of your computer right now?” asked the scammer. “Yeah, well it’s in front of me, is that… that’s like the same thing?” Okumura put the video on YouTube and since then has made over 200 more videos, through which she earns regular advertising revenue (she also takes sponsorships directly from companies).

“A lot of it is entertainment – it’s funny, it’s fun to do, it makes people happy,” she says when asked why she scambaits. “But I also get a few emails a day saying, ‘Oh, thank you so much, if it weren’t for that video, I would’ve lost $1,500.’” Okumura isn’t naive – she knows she can’t stop people scamming, but she hopes to stop people falling for scams. “I think just educating people and preventing it from happening in the first place is easier than trying to get all the scammers put in jail.”

She has a point – in October 2020, the UK’s national fraud hotline, run by City of London Police-affiliated Action Fraud, was labelled “not fit for purpose” after a report by Birmingham City University. An earlier undercover investigation by the Times found that as few as one in 50 fraud reports leads to a suspect being caught, with Action Fraud frequently abandoning cases. Throughout the pandemic, there has been a proliferation of text-based scams asking people to pay delivery fees for nonexistent parcels – one victim lost £80,000 after filling in their details to pay for the “delivery”. (To report a spam text, forward it to 7726.)

For Okumura, education and prevention remain key, but she’s also had a hand in helping a scammer change heart. “I’ve become friends with a student in school. He stopped scamming and explained why he got into it. The country he lives in doesn’t have a lot of jobs, that’s the norm out there.” The scammer told Okumura he was under the impression that, “Americans are all rich and stupid and selfish,” and that stealing from them ultimately didn’t impact their lives. (Browning is more sceptical – while remotely accessing scammers’ computers, he’s seen many of them browsing for the latest iPhone online.)

“At the end of the day, some people are just desperate,” Okumura says. “Some of them really are jerks and don’t care… and that’s why I keep things funny and light. The worst thing I’ve done is waste their time.”

If you have any experiences with these scams do let me know, by email.

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Pinterest Scams

Pinterest is a great social media network based on pictures of all kinds.

People mainly use it for inspiration – food to cook, places to go, clothes to buy, things to do, funnies, absurdities etc.

But it is also used by scammers. When you a post a picture you can add a link to a website page so scammers post something to make you click and that takes you to their scam website.

Here’s a recent example, posted by an idiot.

The woman in the photo is clearly standing further from the camera in the second photo – even her head is narrower in the second photo.

She looks to have lost weight but who knows how many weeks between the photos and she has a suntan in the second photo so maybe some weeks of holiday occurred in between photos.

However, it is impossible for anyone to lose 5 kilogrammes in2 days.

Oh and the magic herb is just parsley. Drinking parsley tea at night supposedly removes all the fat you’ve eaten that day.

No it doesn’t.

Use Pinterest for entertainment and inspiration but don’t be conned by fake photos.

Do leave a comment on this post – click on the post title then scroll down to leave your comment.

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The Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams

https://againstscams.org/

The Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams (SCARS) claim to represent more than 25,000 people, dedicated to changing the world of online fraud for the sake of everyone. They claim that more than 36 million people have been affected by these scams worldwide.

SCARS wants to be the global organization to coordinate political advocacy, public education and avoidance programs, have an enforcement focus, support victims and promote recovery programs, and establish best practices and standards throughout the world. “A Beacon In The Darkness”.

That’s quite a mission.

How SCARS Began

The focus of the Society is to:

  • Consolidate the voices of many into a single voice.
  • Work for the creation and implementation of universal standards and practices that provide effective and ethical anti-scam activities
  • Engage government, law enforcement, and victims globally in new methods to aggressively combat online fraud.
  • Create the first worldwide Anti-Scam Data Reporting Network with industry partners for real time exposure of fraudsters
  • Develop support and recovery solutions for traumatized victims based upon the best methods employed in the private and public sectors.

Professional Links

SCARS claims to be the only anti-online fraud non-governmental organization recognized by governments around the world and partners with a various important authorities, including:-

  • The United States Department of Homeland Security
  • Recognized Victims Assistance Organization
  • S. Department of Justice Office of Victims of Crime
  • S. DoJ OVC National Census Of Victim Service Providers
  • NCVC Victim Connect Program
  • NOVA – National Organization for Victim Assistance
  • SCARS Is a member of The European Union’s Council Of Europe Octopus Cybercrime Organization

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What is The Beard Czar Scam

There is a trend for fashionable beards and some men will buy products to help them grow such a beard and for grooming.

Beard Czar heavily  advertise their products for beard growth and grooming and they have a website at www.beardczar.com

Selling such products is perfectly legal of course.

It’s the special offer they advertise that is the problem.

The offer is that you can try their product for 1 month at a cost of $4.95. The small print with the offer says that you are automatically signed up for their auto-shipment program which sends you 1 month supply every 30 days and charge your credit card.

Unless you cancel that subscription within 14 days then you will be charged $89.99 and so on every 30 days.

There is a phone number to call to cancel but people trying that find it very difficult

See https://www.bbb.org/phoenix/business-reviews/hair-ornaments/beard-czar-in-phoenix-az-1000039261/reviews-and-complaints

for people’s experiences of dealing with this company.

Beard Czar have followed the typical scammers model and created lots of fake reviews online to make it difficult for people to find genuine reviews.

If you type Beard Czar on Google, it finds the Beard Czar website then a lot of reviews with titles such as Beard Czar Warning – Read This Before You Buy It”, “Do Not Buy “Beard Czar” – SIDE EFFECTS REVEALED!!”, Do Not Try “Beard Czar”- All Side Effects HERE!!! – Health Fly Up”

These are just sales pitches dressed up to look like reviews. This is an attempt to deceive people and this kind of action is only carried out by people who don’t want the public to know what’s going on.

Companies that operate this kind of model where they send you a product then do everything they can to make it difficult to stop their charges – are best avoided.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

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Stupidest Scam or Spam of the Week Mega Anti-Oxidant

5000 times stronger than vitamins A, C and E combined” is a scammer’s tagline.

Vitamins are naturally occurring and we need certain amounts of them to make our bodies run efficiently.

Lots of people have health issues that can be helped by ensuring adequate vitamins in their food and some people just p=have poor diets so need vitamin supplements.

However all vitamins can be harmful in large quantities

e.g. taking as little 5 times the recommended amount of vitamin A can lead to liver damage, bone loss, hair loss and more. Taking several times the recommended does of vitamin E increases the chances of stroke and death.

Even relatively safe vitamin C can cause medical problems if over dosed.

So, something 5000 times stronger than vitamins A, C and E combined would absolutely be lethal.

The scammer also claims that this new ‘nutrient’ will rewind time on your cells to make you younger again.

The scam is a mixture of misunderstood science and fantasy and a lot of exaggeration.

Never never trust unsolicited emails offering a magic remedy – they are either non-existent or potentially dangerous.

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