What is scambaiting?

December 25th · 8 min read

Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|
Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|

Turning the tables: When scammers get scammed

In most of our articles, we focus on scams from the perspective of cybercriminals. But what if the script is flipped, and the scammers themselves become the targets? This scenario is exactly what happens in the world of scambaiting, where the hunters become the hunted.

FTC: Americans lost $8.8 billion due to fraud last year - Highlighting the importance of proactive measures like scambaiting.

In this article, we'll take a fascinating deep dive into the world of scambaiting, where scammers unexpectedly become the prey. We'll explore the reversal of roles in this intriguing game of digital cat-and-mouse. Get ready to meet some of the most renowned scambaiters, uncover their ingenious methods, and learn about the variety of scams that can be flipped on their heads. Plus, we'll reveal their favorite tool for online scam prevention – spoiler alert, it's Guardio! Let’s give scammers a taste of their own medicine!

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What is scambaiting?

Scambaiting is a method of investigating online scammers where scambaiters act as if they are prospective targets in order to engage and expose them. The aim? Giving scammers a dose of their own medicine, draining their resources, disrupting their illicit schemes, and providing a form of entertainment for those watching. Scambaiting techniques, often involve clever Sםורבק and a hint of public shaming. Scambaiters take the guise of potential victims, engaging with scammers not for the sake of falling for their tricks, but to deliver a form of digital justice.

Scambaiting techniques: A game of deception

At its core, scambaiting involves outsmarting scammers. Scambaiters pretend to be easy targets, skillfully leading the scammers on a fruitless chase. This tactic keeps the scammers busy and also helps prevent them from reaching real victims.

Meet Rosie Okumura: Voice actor turned scambaiter

Rosie Okumura, a 35-year-old voice actor from Los Angeles, has taken on a unique mission. Several times a week, she dedicates one to two hours to call and confound the very people most of us avoid – scammers. The scammers often pose as tax agents, tech-support providers or even bogusly claim you've been in an unremembered car accident. Wild right? They’ll say anything to try and get their hands on your money.

This is where Okumura’s voice-acting skills come in handy. She takes on various personas during these calls – an elderly lady, a young girl, or even mimicking Apple's Siri. She once even convinced a scammer she was Britney Spears. Her goal? "I waste their time, and now they’re not stealing from someone’s grandma," Okumura states.
Her journey into scambaiting began after a personal incident: her mother, in her 60s and living alone, fell victim to a scam in 2019. A deceptive pop-up, claiming to be from Windows, convinced her she had a virus and prompted her to call a number for help. This led to her granting remote access to her computer and losing $500, along with her personal details, including her social security number. Fortunately, the bank intervened to prevent the transaction, but for Okumura, it wasn't enough. She took the scammer's number from her mom and spent nearly two hours on a call, playing along and wasting the scammer's time. This initial encounter sparked her venture into scambaiting, leading to over 1.5 million followers on YouTube and the creation of over 200 videos that not only entertain but also educate her audience, giving them concrete safe browsing practices and internet safety guidelines. Check out her channel!

Not everyone is cut out to be a scambaiter, but everyone definitely deserves to be protected online. Not surprisingly, many of the best-known scambaiters trust Guardio’s cyber security tools because being the best scambaiter means having the best protection.

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How did scambaiting become a “thing?”

Scambaiting gained popularity primarily through the rise of internet culture and social media. Several key factors contributed to its growth:

  • Online forums and communities: Early internet forums and communities dedicated to cybersecurity and scam awareness provided a platform for sharing scambaiting techniques and stories. These communities brought together individuals interested in fighting back against scammers

  • Rise of scam awareness: As the public became more aware of the extent and sophistication of online scams, there was a growing interest in digital security tips and methods to combat these frauds. Scambaiting was seen as a proactive way to engage with and disrupt scammers.

  • Social media and video platforms: YouTube ), Reddit, and TikTok allowed scambaiters to share their encounters with a broader audience. Videos and posts showcasing scambaiters tricking or frustrating scammers often went viral, leading to increased public interest.
  • Media coverage: As some scambaiting episodes captured the public's imagination, they began to receive more media coverage . News stories and documentaries about scambaiting further raised its profile.
  • Entertainment value: Many find the concept of 'scamming the scammer' entertaining. The often humorous and clever tactics used by scambaiters, combined with the satisfaction of seeing scammers beaten back, make scambaiting content popular for both its entertainment and justice-serving aspects.

  • Technological advancements: As technology evolved, so did the cybersecurity strategies and methods of scambaiting, making it more accessible and effective. The use of virtual phone numbers, voice changers, and other tools made it easier and safer for individuals to engage in scambaiting.

Overall, scambaiting's rise in popularity is a reflection of the growing internet savvy of the public, the desire for active online scam prevention, and the appeal of seeing scammers get a taste of their own medicine.

The wide net of scambaiting

Wide net of scammers You might wonder, what kinds of scams can be scambaited? The truth is, nearly any kind. Whether it’s a phony IRS call or a tech support scam, scambaiters are well-armed with cybersecurity strategies to counter them. Some common types of scams include:
  • The refund scam: This is a type of phishing scam where scammers deceitfully convince you that you're due for a refund from a reputable organization, only to trick you into giving them access to your bank account under the guise of depositing money. Ouch!

  • The IRS scam: Here, scammers posing as tax officials claim you have made serious errors in your tax filings, using the threat of legal consequences to coerce you into buying and sending them gift cards as a form of payment.

  • The credit card scam: Scammers contact you with enticing offers like a shopping reward or a trip, using these false promises to dupe you into revealing your credit card information, which they then use for fraudulent transactions.

  • The tech support scam: This scam involves pop-up warnings or cold calls warning of a non-existent virus or technical issue on your computer, leading you to pay for unnecessary 'tech support services' or granting scammers remote access to your computer.

YouTuber's taking the lead in cybersecurity education

  • Scammer Payback - Tech support crusader: Scammer Payback stands out with his unwavering commitment to unmasking tech support scammers. Through his channel, he enlightens viewers about popular online scams and the tactics used by scammers. He goes beyond just exposing these cybercriminals; he underscores the importance of being alert and questioning any unsolicited tech support offers or dubious websites. His content strikes a balance between being entertaining and educational, equipping his audience with the knowledge to spot and sidestep scams, thus underscoring the critical nature of cybersecurity awareness.

  • Trilogy Media - The dynamic duo of cybersecurity: Trilogy Media, steered by the charismatic Chad and Vy, has carved a niche in the YouTube community with its unique blend of humor and educational content on online security and scam exposure. This channel takes viewers on an exhilarating exploration of hacking, social engineering, and digital fraud. By conducting real-world experiments and interacting directly with scammers, they peel back the layers of deceit and educate about staying cyber-safe. Trilogy Media stands as a captivating and valuable guide for boosting cybersecurity knowledge, making it an exceptional source of digital defense on YouTube.

  • No Text To Speech - Simplifying cybersecurity: Offering a fresh take on tech support scammers and the underworld of cybercrime, No Text To Speech focuses on breaking down complex scams in an easily digestible format. This channel adopts a minimalist yet impactful approach, concentrating on demystifying scams and offering digital security tips about how to avoid online dangers. It delves into the psyche and strategies of cybercriminals, helping viewers understand and guard against these threats. Their content reinforces the importance of staying cautious in the online world, making cybersecurity approachable and understandable for all.

Saluting scambaiters

Scambaiters are the unsung heroes in our digital era. Through humor, creativity, and a keen understanding of the scammer's playbook, these digital warriors are not just entertaining us; they're equipping us with the knowledge and tools to protect ourselves. In embracing the lessons from these scambaiters, we also recognize the importance of reliable anti-scam tools like Guardio in protecting our digital lives. Stay informed, stay protected, and remember – in the digital world, knowledge is your best defense.

No need to be a scambaiter to stay safe

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