For years, robocalls have plagued countries like the U.S., and unfortunately, the volume of scam calls hit an all-time high in 2021. According to Jon Freier, president of T-Mobile’s consumer group, T-Mobile alone blocks or identifies an average of 700 fraudulent calls per second through their robocall-blocking software, Scam Shield. Due to the increase in calls, Americans have also lost nearly $30 billion during 2021 alone.
Kitboga, the moniker of an American Twitch streamer, had a personal encounter with the issue in 2017 when various scammers took advantage of his elderly grandmother. Sadly, she suffered from dementia, which caused her to fall prey to the tactics scammers often use to swindle money.
As a form of payback, Kitboga began to waste the scammers’ time whenever they called. On the days he had some free time from his software engineering job, he would call scammers up in the hopes that he could prevent them from victimizing someone else. Eventually, a friend gave Kitboga the idea to livestream the phone calls, so he began to do just that. What started out as an audience of a few friends turned into thousands as more people tuned in out of curiosity.
Currently, Kitboga has a following of 1 million viewers on Twitch and over 2 million subscribers on YouTube. In the About section of his Twitch page, he wrote, “Improv artist who calls scammers, and likes to explore new things. Laughter is the best medicine.” Indeed, his interactions with scammers involve a significant amount of humor. The comedic element of his phone calls has effectively kept his audience engaged as he continues to spread awareness on just how predatory scammers can be.
Through his livestreams, viewers are able to witness the various ways scammers trick their victims. Generally, they will try to reach their targets by calling them, but it’s also relatively common for people to get pop-ups on their computers that say their device has issues and urge the user to give their company a call to receive tech support.
When making calls, scammers will often disguise their actual phone number as a number local to the victim. This practice is referred to as caller ID spoofing, which scammers do to make the call seem more legitimate and earn their victim’s trust early on. Once they get a hold of their victim, there are numerous different scripts they might follow:
Social Security Scams
Social security scams involve phone calls from people who claim to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA). They may claim that the victim’s Social Security Number (SSN) has been suspended because of some illegal activity possibly caused by the victim. They will call from the number 1-800-772-1213, which is the legitimate number of the SSA, but as mentioned earlier, the scammers use caller ID spoofing to trick the victim into thinking that it’s the SSA.
In Kitboga’s video titled “Angry Scammers Suspend My Social Security Number (SSN Cold Call),” he calls back a number that claims to be from the SSA after he received a voicemail from them. Instead of being himself, however, he uses a voice changer to pretend to be a woman named Claire.
Kitboga is immediately connected to a so-called representative who proceeds to tell him his SSN has been suspended due to a warrant out for his arrest. Kitboga acts worried, as anybody would be in the situation, and keeps interrupting the representative to ask questions about the case. The representative quickly becomes irritated, as the questions are keeping him from hastily reading his script and getting Kitboga’s money. After telling Kitboga not to interrupt his speech, the scammer proceeds to say that an abandoned car rented under Claire’s name was found with blood and drugs inside at the southern border of Texas.
Kitboga then informs the representative that he does not want to proceed without a lawyer, to which the representative responds that he needs to be questioned first before he can talk to his lawyer. Kitboga questioned this, asking, “but don’t I have the right to have a lawyer present?” The representative responded, “You have the right … but we will give you this right later.”
Eventually, the representative gets tired of questioning him and transfers the line to someone in the “senior department.” Kitboga proceeds to troll the “senior officer,” constantly interrupting him until the officer gets mad and hangs up.
Scammers will often act aggressively to coerce sensitive information from their victims, but according to the FTC, law enforcement will never call people to threaten them with arrest, and government agencies will never call to confirm sensitive information such as an SSN.
Tech Support Scam
Tech support scams begin through phone calls, emails or pop-ups on computers. Scammers masquerading as representatives from big tech companies like Microsoft will contact victims and claim there is a problem with the victim’s account or computer. They will then walk the victim through their script, which involves:
- Gaining remote access to the victim’s computer.
- Installing malware on the device.
- Selling the victim software at exorbitant prices.
- Asking the victim to give them personal information for things like credit cards or bank accounts.
In the video “When Scammers Face REAL Computer Viruses,” Kitboga calls the tech support scammer’s bluff when the scammer is faced with a “real” virus. The virus is actually fake and created by Kitboga himself to see if the scammer has enough information technology (IT) proficiency to solve the issue. Despite the scammer’s claims that he is a “level nine technician,” his lack of knowledge shows when he is unable to fix the problem. When the scammer realizes he’s been exposed, he tells Kitboga, who is masquerading as a technologically clueless older man, to go see a real technician to remove the virus in a last-ditch effort to save face.
Refund scams are terrible because they mainly target individuals who have already lost money to scammers. When the victim receives one of these phone calls, the scammer will claim to be able to recover the victim’s money for a fee. According to the FTC, people who were successfully scammed are kept on a “sucker list” and will be relentlessly targeted by the scammers for more money.
The process of a refund scam can be seen in many of Kitboga’s videos. In “$4,000 ‘Refund’ Scam Ruined – Spending The Money,” the scammer uses their typical script to try and extort money from Kitboga.
Scams Are Always Evolving
Unfortunately, as technology advances and more people become better at avoiding these scams, scammers also develop better tactics and newer scenarios. Along with the common phone scams, scams involving COVID-19, Bitcoin and even religious services have begun to make their rounds.
What makes Kitboga great, however, is how his scambaiting methods give his viewers insight into how scammers normally operate. Through his humor and his amazing ability to improvise, Kitboga continues to educate his audience and spread awareness around the issue. It’s eye-opening, especially for first-time viewers, but once they get a sense of the common tactics scammers use, it becomes easier to recognize scams and protect themselves and their loved ones from being defrauded.