Fighting back against phone scammers with glitter bombs

Graham Cluley
@gcluley

YouTuber Mark Rober (famous for his videos about obstacle courses for ninja squirrels, filling a swimming pool with jello, and informative videos about the Perserverance Mars Rover) is a social media star with millions of followers – young and old.

So it’s great to see that his latest video raising awareness of the activities of phone scammers, who frequently trick the unwary out of tens of thousands of dollars.

But it could be boring to just make a regular video about this modern scourge, so Mark Rober livens things up by covering the scammers – with glitter and fart spray.

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The social engineering used by scammers is simple, but it works – fooling the unwary into installing remote access software such as LogMeIn, TeamViewer, and AnyDesk.

Victims are then duped into believing they have received into their bank account a larger refund than intended (in the example shown in the video, some simple editing of the HTML within a browser’s rendering of a banking page makes it look like $20,000 has been mistakenly transferred into the victim’s account).

The scammer then preys on their victim’s kindness, pleading for the excess money (which has not really been received in the bank account at all) be sent to them urgently via FedEx or UPS.

However, the package containing the money will often really be going to a mule, using an Airbnb address as a temporary delivery point.

As Mark Rober points out, most of the victims of these types of scams are elderly. You can do your part by explaining how these scams work to your vulnerable friends and family, and sitting them down in front of the video.

Hopefully your loved ones will get a good laugh out of watching the video too. I suspect it’s a lot less funny if they’ve fallen victim to a telephone scam like this in the past, and lost their life savings.

Well done to Mark, and his scam-fighting YouTube allies Jim Browning and Scammer Payback for making life harder for these organised criminal gangs and – in some cases – bringing them to justice.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

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