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Tech Support Scammers Used Victims' Webcams To Secretly Record 'Testimonials' For YouTube (gizmodo.com) 50

A team of scammers sneakily filmed dozens of Australians by remotely accessing their webcams, then uploaded those videos onto YouTube, according to Australian news outlet ABC. From a report: The victims were reportedly lured in through a false tech support operation. One victim, Geoff Sussman, told ABC he looked online for a service that could help him download Adobe software. He says he was duped by a fake Adobe support page claiming to provide "Support for Adobe Australia," and called a 1-800 number on the site. The number led him to an operation called Macpatchers, which told him he had a virus and asked him to download software to give them remote access to his computer. This is a common scam technique, but Macpatchers seems to have taken it a step farther and asked him to read a script that appeared on the screen, claiming he was pleased with the service. Unbeknownst to him, Macpatchers were accessing his camera, and recorded the statement. The group then reportedly uploaded the video to YouTube along with the videos of 68 other victims -- a chorus of fake testimonials recommending the service. A man who describes himself as a "scam-baiter" uncovered the operation and shared his finding with ABC. He told ABC that Macpatchers recommended he check out their reviews.

Tech Support Scammers Used Victims' Webcams To Secretly Record 'Testimonials' For YouTube

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  • I have a relative who fell for a "free Microsoft service" scam. (No cam here.) The family eventually had to lock their credit and bunches of other headaches because of stolen personal info.

    He fell for it for two reasons. First, he's up there in age and not so clear-thinking these days. Second, he's a cheap-skate and didn't want to pay for real service. The idea of "free" always made him giddy, even before his marbles started slipping away.

    • Second, he's a cheap-skate and didn't want to pay for real service. The idea of "free" always made him giddy

      Funny that, the idea of "paying" for software makes me, well, not quite giddy. So who's falling for a scam here?

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        the idea of "paying" for software makes me, well, not quite giddy

        OSS stuff can "break" also. OSS's lousy UI's are often a big source of problems & confusion. As much as I despise MS, their UI's are on average slightly better than OSS competitors, probably because they actually test them with real people. OSS should admit it usually sucks when it comes to UI's.

        Something needs to be done about the "giant menu tree of options". It's outgrown it's day. Put all the options into a relational-like system along

        • OSS stuff can "break" also.

          The big difference is the right to repair. When proprietary stuff breaks, all you can do is curse the vendor ("tech support" my ass). With OSS, as long as it's not a problem with lousy undocumented hardware (most of the woes these days), you always have the recourse of fixing it yourself, and then sharing your fix with others.

          This by the way is my biggest beef with systemd: it's a big tangle of spaghetti code, with no pieces supposed to be user serviceable. Things done the Unix way are easy to fix by a s

      • Free software is great -- but free services always have a catch. Unless it's a registered charity organization, the odds that someone is donating their time to a random stranger are quite low.

    • My mom fell for this 3 times so far (and avoided one other). She doesn't understand the concept because these guys were helping her "for free". Every time I explained not to do this, and please always call me for help. I think though that she wants some amount of independence here.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Need we say anything more?

    • I mean, I understand there are a LOT of non-tech types....

      But seriously, someone needs help to figure out how to download and install Adobe software?!?!!?

      I mean, let's face it, it takes a bit of tech to even be able to USE Adobe software....so, if you're able to use it, I'd think you'd have at least enough savvy to go to the website, follow the instructions to download and double click the installer file...?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But seriously, someone needs help to figure out how to download and install Adobe software?!?!!?

        Dude, seriously, never let your own understanding of computers make you forget just how little some people know about them. Suddenly they have one and don't know much about it, and it's a big scary thing.

        I mean, let's face it, it takes a bit of tech to even be able to USE Adobe software

        What, like, viewing a PDF for instance?

        These tech support scams still work, because obviously people still fall for them. By th

        • by xvan ( 2935999 )

          I mean, my god, you find it via a Google search, check on YouTube and see testimonials, and then you call.

          I don't get that part of the scam. Isn't it cheaper to hire a bunch of fake testimonials? This is really sophisticated but I don't see the purpose.

      • Installing can be a scam in itself. Ie, you click "ok, "ok", "ok", because that's how they know to install software. So one of the first things I do when I visit my mom is go uninstall Chrome because it gets automatically installed when updating software unless you manually unclick a box. This used to be how you got all those stupid helper bars on the browser though that scam seems to be gone.

      • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

        It doesn't take any skill at all to use Flash. If anything, it takes skill to avoid its abuse by sites -- but merely using it is no different from using the browser in general.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But did they install the Adobe software or not? If they went through all the trouble of getting access to the computer and recording the guy they could at least fulfill his original request. It's not like installing software is hard for someone with that level of competence.

  • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Monday June 04, 2018 @12:03PM (#56725418)

    but Macpatchers seems to have taken it a step farther and asked him to read a script that appeared on the screen, claiming he was pleased with the service. Unbeknownst to him, Macpatchers were accessing his camera, and recorded the statement. The group then reportedly uploaded the video to YouTube along with the videos of 68 other victims -- a chorus of fake testimonials recommending the service.

    If you are willing to perform like a trained monkey, I'm not sure anything can help you.

    • If you are willing to perform like a trained monkey, I'm not sure anything can help you.

      I'm sure we can find your pressure points and get you to dance for us too. The question is just what are they.

  • by resistant ( 221968 ) on Monday June 04, 2018 @12:03PM (#56725420) Homepage Journal

    This shit is so evil as to be ... actively funny.

    Hey, you know what else would be funny? Tracking down the muppets that pull this crap and breaking their knees on video. It'd be a great testimonial for the baseball bats used. "See, they smash over and over without splintering! Buy Sweet Revenge brand baseball bats today!"

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Who allowed us to get to this point. Then the tech company CEOs who helped make the necessity of it believable. Then the developers who implemented it because their fat paychecks were more important than their morality.

      After we've gotten that far you can start beating on the citizenry for either voting these schmucks in, not educating themselves in regards to tech, or for falling for these scams.

      It's beatings all the way down.

    • NO NO NO
      if you are going to use a Bat it must be a Genuine Maple Slugger. And don't forget a nice level swing to the SIDE of the knees gets you a better result.

    • I suspect some of these guys are semi-legit, they just don't know that they're enabling others. Ie, a small IT support team is partnered with the real scammers who put up the malware. What they know is that the person on the other end of the phone has "requested" support, and so they walk them through the steps of installing several remote support tools, uninstalling the unapproved anti-malware, etc.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      It stops being funny when you think about how these "victims" are allowed to vote or have children. That is a real danger to others and society as a whole.

      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        Given the well documented impacts of age on peoples ability to engage in the world around them it's quite likely that a lot of these victims were highly successful contributors to society, and should now be getting some protection in return.

        Shit, enough US presidents go senile after they retire to keep a tech support scam running for a fair while.

  • by MorePower ( 581188 ) on Monday June 04, 2018 @01:04PM (#56725884)

    The part that weirds me out the most, they read the script out loud?
    I mean, they didn't think the webcam was on, and they were asked to read a script which supposedly no one could hear. But they read it out loud? And not even in a mumbling, under-their-breath voice, but a clear enough voice with convicing emotion that could be used in a marketing video? When they thought no one could hear them?

  • Jesus Fucking Christ. This clown did everything but drive over to the scammer's house and hand them cash. Is it really a crime to take money from someone this gullible?

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Still a crime, but the law is useless to fight this. Except maybe to require some minimal understanding of reality and how things work before declaring somebody a legal adult. Doing it by age does clearly not work.

    • Is it really a crime to take money from someone this gullible?

      It's actually a crime not to take it.

  • Been there (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shemmie ( 909181 ) on Monday June 04, 2018 @01:18PM (#56726018)

    I had a spare VM image lying around when they called my parents. Was curious what they actually 'did'.

    Got me to download LogMeIn and guided me to Event Viewer. Pointed out "red crosses" as signs of a virus. They then proceeded to poke around the PC, occasionally firing up Regedit, and just generally looking through folders.

    At the end of the process, I explained I'd just been following along as I was curious what the patter was, he attempted to delete My Documents, My Pictures and My Music, and proceeded to swear at me for wasting his time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Got me to download LogMeIn and guided me to Event Viewer. Pointed out "red crosses" as signs of a virus. They then proceeded to poke around the PC, occasionally firing up Regedit, and just generally looking through folders.

      Yup, I've heard this before ... essentially they bring up useless garbage that the victims have no idea what it means, and use that to support the "ah ha, I see the problem" bullshit.

      At the end of the process, I explained I'd just been following along as I was curious what the patter was,

      • Yup, I've heard this before ... essentially they bring up useless garbage that the victims have no idea what it means, and use that to support the "ah ha, I see the problem" bullshit.

        Sounds like a few doctors I've been to...

    • At the end of the process [...] he attempted to delete My Documents, My Pictures and My Music, and proceeded to swear at me for wasting his time.

      It is disappointing and scary that scammers don't just hang up in the safety of their spoofed caller ID.

      The potential harm is deleting hundreds or thousands of pictures or your college papers / thesis or taxes just because their only goals are defrauding your for $$$ or destroying years of your digital memories.
      That this seems widespread among the scammers is worrying, and you'd almost believe that scammer-college is teaching this same type of retaliation to all scammers :)

      I've seen this kind of retaliation

      • by Shemmie ( 909181 )

        The one consolation here - albeit maybe not for the non-tech senior in your example; they only soft-deleted; the files (Just the samples that come with a Windows install - or used to) ended up in the Recycle Bin.

        • It's worth checking out the recycle bin

          Thanks for your thread. One AC child post mentions the term "scambating" and my ddg searches were immediately useful. A result was titled "419 Eater - The largest scambaiting community on the planet!"

          I've got mixed feelings about realizing there are online communities doing this! If only we did something more to educate instead of fighting what isn't our war...

          Anyway, I would worry their potential for exposure to retaliation after each volunteer eventually starts appea

    • by Anonymous Coward
      As alluded to in the summary, one can search 'scambaiting' if they want to get a feel for how these kinds of scams typically go. I know of one streamer, kitboga, who does near-daily streams on Twitch. Mostly tech support scams, but sometimes others like IRS fraud. A really positive guy, especially for Twitch, but it helps offset the urge to take a baseball bat to a scammer's face.
  • My mother-in-law was hit with this one. As her "tech support guy", I then had to reformat her PC. They're very slick in gaining people's trust. They ask them to download the software and then read all their stored passwords out to them. Not only is it the money, but it also makes people feel stupid to anyone who finds out they fell for it. It's only going to get worse - what will happen once scammers can emulate other people's voices really well? What about fake photos too? Should old people no longer have
    • It's only going to get worse - what will happen once scammers can emulate other people's voices really well? What about fake photos too? Should old people no longer have a phone?

      I work in this game and I think even I'm screwed. My plans when I'm old are to move to a third world village with a pre-internet ways of doing everything. The technology is just going to be too good that even I won't be able to tell what's real and what isn't. So what hope does everyone else have?

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