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Scam baiter: Why I risk death threats to expose online cons (bbc.com)
114 points by uladzislau on Oct 7, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments



Wow cannot thank these guys enough. Every scam that is serious about making money has SEO-carpet bombed Google to death, making any serious search for the truth impossible (unless you’re one of those people who always knows to go to the 7th page of search results).

Also here’s a pro-tip. If you’re searching for something and a bunch of Youtube videos says “Is XYZ a scam??”, the answer is “absolutely yes”. Those videos pretend to be honest reviews that wind up finding out that “surprisingly, it’s not a scam and looks pretty good”, but it’s all a lie.

Other scams, usually by virtue of providing a 100% incentive based compensation structure:

- Selling mattresses

- Real Estate sales or seminars of any kind to someone inexperienced

- MLM or Pyramid Schemes

- Typically anything that advocates obscene amounts of positive psychology and a scientology like version of a Christianity

- Insurance sales

- Selling internet services for a company like CBeyond

- Any college of any-kind that makes a profit short of coding boot camps (and they’ll probably turn into a scam within a few years which is sad)


>Any college of any-kind that makes a profit short of coding boot camps (and they’ll probably turn into a scam within a few years which is sad)

You definitely lost me there - while there are scam schools and the cost of reputable private colleges has ballooned from expensive through unacceptable into stratospheric, higher education remains one of the best investments a person can make in themselves.

Yes, vocational training like coding bootcamps or other trade schools can be a way better path for a lot of people. And yes, the sort of bootcamp that charges 5 figures to teach you the javascript framework du jour is probably not worth what it charges. But a lot of bootcamps these days are partnering with large companies to learn what sort of skills are needed and going with income-based payment, something like X% of your income above $N for Y months expiring in Z years. I wouldn't write them off.


To clarify I didn’t mean private colleges like Swarthmore, Westminster, or Rice. Schools like Kaplan, ITT, Cordon Bleu.

Also I have no problems with coding bootcamps. But the schools I mentioned above, whose avarice I feel like knows no limits, will eventually discover “coding bootcamps” and make them into a brutal profit extraction machine with laughable education value. But again, that in no way has happened yet.


Kaplan did buy Dev Bootcamp a few years ago. I noticed that mentioned quite often in the articles that came out in July about Dev Bootcamp shutting down.

I don't know anything about how Kaplan's ownership affected it though, either positively or negatively.

Apollo Education (which owns the University of Phoenix) acquired The Iron Yard bootcamp in 2015, and it is shutting down as now as well.

So in these cases at least, some of the large for-profit education providers don't seem to have found dev bootcamps (in their current form, anyway) to be very lucrative.


Most (all?) legitimate colleges, public & private, are non-profit. For profit schools are things like DeVry college and Corinthian Colleges. These are pretty widely considered scammy.


>But a lot of bootcamps these days are partnering with large companies to learn what sort of skills are needed and going with income-based payment, something like X% of your income above $N for Y months expiring in Z years. I wouldn't write them off.

The company I currently work for is spearheading a program like this- you go through a six month bootcamp and get placed in a the 2 year long rotational program for out-of-college hires. The distinction here is that they're also trying to pipe in college hires for the bootcamp, just those who discovered they liked CS too late or majored in the wrong thing.


For colleges I personally recommend "If they are going to you with advertising, they aren't good enough to be known by you or employers".


If you're including mattresses, insurance, and real estate, I can't help but to think your definition of 'scam' is 'thing I don't like'.


That's not what he's saying

Insurance and mattresses salesman did not get to that position by signing up to some online "course" where they were promised "unlimited returns"

Walking up to your local mattress shop and handing your CV has a much higher chance of you getting an actual job doing that


- Binary options

- much foreign exchange trading (FOREX).

(Huge racket. In many cases, you're not really buying options; you're betting against the house, which is a bucket shop. The house cheats, and won't pay up if they lose. 40% of Israel's financial sector is this stuff.[1])

[1] https://www.timesofisrael.com/the-wolves-of-tel-aviv-israels...


Wait, what? Mattresses?

I am confused and, I confess, Google is not exactly helpful - like you suggested.

I don't think I've ever been scammed when buying a mattress? I don't think anyone has even tried to scam me while buying a mattress. Then again, those two traits would make for a good scam.


The scam is in the "100% your money back if you find a lower price"

Each mattress is a different version because they use different color thread. Everything else is exactly the same as the competition.


The author wasn't very clear on this one. It's not that mattresses in general are a scam, but the internet offers to make a fortune selling them.


They aren't really a scam as such, the margins are just ridiculously high.

And there is stuff like no 2 stores having the same mattress, so you can't comparison shop.


You only buy so many mattresses in your lifetime, and they take up a ton of space. Of course their margins are high.


Ah, thanks. I don't really shop or compare prices, but just get what suits my needs. I've been happy with the results and costs, so I was unsure of where the scam was.


Mattress companies provide some of the highest payouts through affiliate marketing. As a result, there are many more bogus reviews for that product category than most high ticket items like good sound systems or cars.


I just tried googling for:

Is the stock market a scam?

And the first hit is a youtube video of someone explaining that it's not a scam. If we agree that the stock market isn't a scam, that's at least a false positive for your test..


Uh... do we all agree that the stock market isn't a scam?


You found a video review of the stock market?


Unboxing NASDAQ


> short of coding boot camps (and they’ll probably turn into a scam within a few years which is sad)

Some of them are pretty close, if not there already -- not always intentionally though.


> Wayne May (not his real name)

Don't want to use his real name, probably for his safety considering it mentions death threats, but half a page later there's a super clear picture of him?!?


Unless he's a celebrity it's much harder to find someone from a picture than it is from a name


That probably won’t be true within the span of time he’ll be active. Surely Facebook or Google will offer some mechanism for face recognition.


You can probably just use Google's reverse image search and then look at the "related images" pane on the right.


I thought the article title was pretty silly; as a gregarious human, risking death threats is something I do on a daily basis just shopping for milk.

Anyway, I tried what you suggested. It was well worth it: https://imgur.com/a/dCFnx


In a dystopian future where assassination has been automated and can easily be ordered from the dark web, a contract on Wayne May brings the end for humanity ...


Sure, but if I was worried about receiving death threats, I wouldn't want either to be publicised!


Checked out their website, looks as if they could really benefit from somebody with some web skills: https://www.scamsurvivors.com/


I agree. It is not his fault that the equilibrium has settled this way, but the fact is that it has settled at a point where ironically the design of his site sets off my "this is a scam site" alarms. Not a confidence scam, per se, but certainly a site I wouldn't be downloading any executables from and would be expecting a popup ad with malware at any moment when visiting.

In reality I know he isn't doing any of that but the design unfortunately signals he might be.


Agreed, I would offer myself but I'm not a web dev and could do more harm than good. Firefox gives a yellow padlock for the site, grounds to think there may be some security issues as a modern web dev seems to have not touched it in a long time.

Would be awfully nice for a UK based developer to offer them their services for free and add some robustness against DDoS.

I would especially want to see some security audit done on their forum, looks as if a security vulnerability could quite literally be life threatening.


ha! that site looks like a scam. on second thought, that's exactly what people who don't run the other direction when they see something like this need.

in a similar vein, what could use somebody's web skills is a ICO fraud site that looks as impressive and overengineered as ICO marketing sites (case in point: IOTA https://iota.org/. not commenting on the merits of the project, just the site). although these sites probably already exist.


>in a similar vein, what could use somebody's web skills is a ICO fraud site that looks as impressive and overengineered as ICO marketing sites (case in point: IOTA https://iota.org/. not commenting on the merits of the project, just the site). although these sites probably already exist.

That site is insane, I wonder how many people don't even make it past the home page because of loading times or some fancy feature breaks. I loathe websites removing basic functionality like scroll bars.


yes, fully agree, and it is only the tip of the iceberg of a much larger number of anti-selling marketing sites that use text more like a texture to paint on top of positive imagery, than to convey any kind of coherent message about the product.


I nearly went blind looking at that design work!


As @savanaly said above, you almost expect a pop-up scam on the anti-scam website!


I may well be too old-fashioned, but I tend to make some distinctions between different kind of scams (not necessarily online).

The victim may well be a poor innocent (possibly elderly or kids) not-the-sharpiest-knife-in-the drawer, as it happens (example) for those scam calls promising they will fix your computer that has a virus or similar, or solicitng for an unpaid (non-existing) invoice but a large part of the scams are based on the victim having some form of "greed" or "lust" or however the will to do something that would not be entirely legal or morally acceptable.

So, I personally find difficult to call "victims" someone that thought they could get a zillion dollars "helping" a poor Nigerian Prince (or his widow) to collect the fortune he accumulated offshore or those that are blackmailed because they showed nude (or worse) on a webcam believing that on the other side there was a nice looking girl.

This said, the data in the "form" for sextortion/blackmail "victims" here:

https://www.scamsurvivors.com/blackmail/form/form.html

is IMHO something that noone, including and especially a "victim" of an online scam should even think of filling and sending to anyone (if not - if it is the case - Law enforcement officials).

"Wayne May" is asking for exactly the same data that would make a scammer/blackmailer happy:

1) Name

2) Date of birth

3) Location

4) E-mail address

...

5) Link to (eventually uploaded) compromising video

Most probably "Wayne May" and his helping volunteers are in good faith and have the best of the intentions, and this data will never leak, but it is a huge, huge risk.


Problem with scams is that part of it is getting automated. Scammers are now regularly scanning entire area codes looking for people to scam, usually spoofing their caller id.

I called my phone company and blocked inbound international calls: problem solved and no more scam calls.


So what happens if someone wants to call you internationally?


In that case I just use voice over ip or a messaging app.


Terrible short-form BBC reporting: here’s a guy who risks death treats to help scam victims! Sorry, were going to quote experts & give generic avoidance advice instead of sharing the threats or an example of how a victim was helped.


I am fighting the good fight too with creating this website to expose the exact messages of scammer so anyone searching... can find a particular scam.

https://scamshare.com

Feel free to submit your scam emails to the website... the more in the database, the better chance of hopefully protecting people from getting scammed.




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