Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fake WebCam Software Exposed!

I was so angry today, so upset that I thought I might vomit.  For sure I was near tears as I watched the promotional video for a software package that claims to allow anyone anywhere to go into a webcam chat room using fake webcam video footage to chat with unsuspecting people on the other end of the internet.  The more I watched it the worse I felt.  How could anyone be so thoughtless as to create such a program?  Just to make money?  At the expense of others?  Greedy...well I won't say what my mind wants to say.

And what happens when the romance scammers use this software to hurt more people around the world?  I want to scream to anyone who will listen...Don't use your webcam to video chat with anyone anywhere until you absolutely know for certain that they are real and not some romance scammer sitting in some cyber cafe in West Africa or elsewhere around the world!  Yes I know that webcamming is really fun!  I know that this technology is amazing how it can bring a big wide world so much closer together.  But I also know that innocent people around the world are going into webcam chat rooms and chatting with strangers they've never met before, believing these people are just like them, real flesh and blood people not pretending to be something they are not.  Then these people are having their video chats recorded without their permission and used to create fake profiles so that the people making these fake profiles can scam hundreds of other people out of their hard earned money and break their hearts too!

Technology always comes with a price.  Learning how to use it and know the risks is imperative!  But how many using webcams today have a clue about the risks?  How many people are being scammed right now because someone was in a webcam chat room having a little fun without realizing their fun was being recorded to be used elsewhere?  The previous post here in the blog talks about the article that explains how those chat room video chats are being used.  Now comes this information about this software and how the creators of the software use models to pose with fake ID cards from each of the 50 states of the United States, and how there are buttons to push so you can control which video is used, and how the software can "read" what you are typing before you even push the send button?  It even reads it if you delete it and don't ever send it.  This way the person operating the software can be ready with the video clip that responds to what was typed.  You don't even need to be using a webcam to view the scammer's "webcam".  It's horrendous!

Well the "good news" is that the company apparently stopped selling the software to regular people and warns that anyone using the software is a scammer.  Hmmm, I wonder how they found this out???  Did they really expect that good, kind-hearted, honest people would want to use this product?  Money-grubbing greedy people creating products and don't think about the ramifications of those products getting into the wrong hands?  Well come on, how would this product get into the right hands?  They claim to sell it to law enforcement and private investigators.  Find another way than online for the world to see.  Better yet, don't do it to begin with!  (Looks like I am still angry and upset hours later.)  They also promote it to be used by "pranksters".  Come on, really???  The fact is, the product is still available online if you know where to look.  There are probably other similar products available as well.  I didn't have the heart to find out.

What do we say to the victims who come to us for help?  How do we tell them that no matter how real the video chat appeared to be, or how interactive it was, it was still fake?  It's in the whole story.  We know that.  Their gut instincts tell them that.  But it is hard enough for them to let go of the photographs.  And this software program even offers matching photos to go along with the video clips so that people can create fake profiles on dating sites and social networking sites. 

What it boils down to is simple and basic.  Don't use webcams to chat with anyone you don't really know in person, up close, face to face, unless you know for sure that this person is not a scammer.  How many people are going to listen to me if I scream it across the internet?  Webcams are so much fun.  Why stop using them?  Well don't stop using them.  Just use them wisely and safely.  Don't set yourself up to become the target of romance scammers who will record your video chats to use to hurt someone else.  And don't stop listening to your gut if you are talking to someone online and something feels "off" about the whole thing.  If you aren't sure, then don't use the webcam at all.  Get help.  We want to help the victims of these scammers and no matter which side of the camera they might be on, whether they had their chats recorded or if they are the ones watching the faked videos, they are victims of the scammers.

Does anyone remember that old movie NETWORK?  Remember when they said in it something like "I'm mad and I'm not gonna take it anymore!"?  That's how I've felt about this all day.  We can be here to help the victims heal from the devastation of the scams.  But if you read this, please, please use your webcam wisely so you don't become a victim.  If you think you might have had your chats recorded without your permission, or you think you are involved with a romance scammer in any way, please contact us at .

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

To Cam Or Not To Cam?

Webcamming can be a fun, interactive experience with family and friends. Let's you see the grandkids and how they're growing! It is a wonderful way to keep in touch. However it does have a bad side too.
Did you know that scammers use this tool as a way to pull you deeper into the scam and convince you that they are real? They are experts at manipulating the video so that you actually think you are talking to the love of your life! They can pause the video, look like they are typing, make you think that this is a real person that you are talking to, and thereby convince you that they are who they say they are.
Here is an interesting article that tells you about the way it works:

As you can see these criminals are very clever. They can trick you into believing them, so that you are sure that this person is for real. They steal footage off of webcam dating sites and use it to fool you. Not only that, they are making a victim of the person whose footage they are using, who has no idea they are doing it. 
As the article suggests, a way that you can catch them is to ask them to do something, such as touch their nose, or show you a little of the room they are in, such as a painting or picture that may be hanging on the wall or anything that will cause a reaction from the person. If they don't react that is definitely a "red flag" that something isn't right. Often they will pause the cam when you do this and claim that something is wrong with the webcam.
That is definitely the time to pull the plug and delete and block them.
One rule of thumb is to never WebCam with anyone that you don't know. Don't be willing to cam with just anyone until you have gotten to know the person very well and are sure that they are on the up and up.
The WebCam experience can be wonderful with your friends and family as it does add a personal touch that type chatting and email doesn't, but just make sure that it is a safe experience also.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A New Messenger Poses Threat of Romance Scams

A new online dating instant messenger program has now made it more important than ever to learn how to recognize the warning signs of a romance scammer.  This program has the capability of allowing one person instant messenger access to multiple online dating sites at the same time.  This means that while one person joins several online dating websites, he (it's targeting men right now) can login to this instant messenger program and access all those dating sites at once instead of going to each one by itself.  This means that he can be chatting with women from multiple dating sites at the same time through one simple program.  

What does this mean?  It means that a typical group of romance scammers who have this instant messenger program can do in minutes what it may normally take hours for them to do.  It means contacting more potential victims in one shot where it would have previously taken them much longer to do.  It means that they no longer have to work on one dating site at a time.  They can access who knows how many of the dating sites they "work" on to reach more and more victims.  It means more people are going to get hurt unless they learn how to recognize the romance scam warning signs.

The article is HERE.

There are many websites available to see the warning signs of how to recognize a romance scammer.  Some of the best signs are:
1.  Their grammar does not match their education level they claim to have or job level or location where they live.  There grammar can be horrible one minute and nearly perfect in the next minute.  You notice discrepancies in grammar from one email to the next or from one day to the next, or even within a single chat session.
2.  They push you to move from the dating site or social network such as Facebook to chat on Yahoo Messenger or Skype, although now this new online dating site messenger program could change this as well.  Be very careful of anyone who is pushing you out of your comfort zone.  
3. They push you to use your regular email account instead of the dating site email.  It is much safer for you to remain within the dating site email but if you do switch to personal email, create a specific account just for that and don't let them know your normal email address.  
4.  You have checked their IP address from the email to your personal account and the country of origin of their emails is Ghana or Nigeria or even Malaysia or anywhere else outside the normal range of the area where they say they live.
5.  Their profile gets removed from the dating site almost immediately after they are contacting you.  They do this for several reasons, one being that they paid by stolen credit card and their profile was removed by the site, two being that they don't want you to be able to compare anything they say from this point on to what was said in the profile because they will be creating a specific profile to become exactly who you are looking for.  But the reasons they give for why the profile is no longer available is because they claim to already have found the one they were looking for when they found you.
6.  They tell you they love you within the first few minutes or first few days/weeks.  Falling in love that quickly especially with someone you have not even met in person does not happen.  Real love takes time for two people to get to know each other in all types of situations.  Scammers sweet talk their victims into a false sense of security and romance, creating a dream come true.  
7.  They always seem to have reasons why you cannot meet in person.  Job, family, illness, business trips, car problems.  If you cannot meet your online interest within a few weeks time, become very suspicious.  Remember, it is much safer to keep your online dating parameters within local distance ranges that allow for face to face dates.
8.  No matter where they claim to be, suddenly the mention of Nigeria or Ghana comes into their story for whatever reason.  It may be business trips, or job contracts.  It could be to retrieve an inheritance.  It could be lots of reasons.  Whatever the reason, the mention of Nigeria or Ghana is the 100% proof you need that this is indeed a romance scammer.
9.  They want your phone number, address, or other personal information almost immediately.  They want to hear your voice.  They want to send you a gift.  Do not give out this information to anyone until you know this is not a romance scammer.  
10.  They are sending you love letters or love poetry that is not in the same type of grammar and tone that they normally email you in.  This is because they are using love letter and love poetry websites and doing a copy/paste of the letters into your email they send you.  It's all part of the social profiling/social engineering that they are doing to build up your relationship with them so they can start asking you for money.
11.  They claim to be ready to come "home" to be with you but suddenly they've been in an accident and need money for the hospital, or customs is holding them up at the airport for some reason, they need something called BTA (Basic Travel Allowance) which does not exist, they have been mugged, their child has gotten sick...many many stories and all scams.  They are now trying to get you to feel responsible for them because you love them and they want you to send them money that they will pay you back with when they see you.  Only they will never be actually coming to see you.  They will just find more and more reasons to ask you for money.  
12.  They send you flowers, teddy bears, candy, and soon after that they ask you to accept a package for them from a "client" or some other person they have explained to you.  You are then to forward that package on to them or to another person.  This is called reshipping and is a felony that can land you in prison.  Do not give them your home or work address.  They send you the gifts so they can confirm the address is correct, then try to start this reshipping project through you.
13.  They tell you they cannot cash their paycheck, or some other problem they are having with checks and money while they are overseas, so they ask you to open a bank account for them or just use your own bank account and cash the checks for them.  They may even ask you to keep some of the money for yourself but send the rest to them via Western Union.  Do not do this under any circumstances.  Just like the reshipping, this is illegal and the checks or money orders you receive are counterfeit.  Even if your bank says they have cleared in the next few days, eventually you will end up owing your bank back for any of that money you take out.  Never send cash overseas to anyone you have never met in person face to face.  Don't send cash to anyone you have only met online and/or by telephone.
14.  You talk to them on the phone or in voice chat and you notice that they have an accent that does not fit who they say they are or where they are from.  
15.  They ask you tons of questions but refuse or stall at answering your questions.  When they do answer your questions it is only after a long pause (while they go online and look up the answer).  For this reason, ask them as many questions as you can think of.  If they cannot respond to reasonable questions immediately, do not trust that they are who they claim to be.

There are many, many more warning signs than these alone.  The point is, deep down inside us we have this thing in our gut telling us when something doesn't feel right.  If you are using online dating and you start feeling this thing in your gut saying "Whoa!  Hold up a bit!" then listen to it.  The longer someone is involved in a romance scam the more difficult it is to convince them that it is a scam and the more money they will lose, in addition to being more emotionally damaged.  Listen to your gut.  Don't let a profile photo and a lot of romantic talk get the best of you.  If you need help knowing for sure, just come to us.  That's what we are here for.  You don't have to give up online dating or using social networking sites.  Just learn how to use those sites safely.