Scambaiting as a preventive tool in the fight against cyberfrauds: the case of romance scams
R Zbinden, O Beaudet-Labrecque, F Grandjean, C Gobeil, L Brunoni, ...
This paper discusses the use of scambaiting techniques to combat online fraud, drawing from a recent project in which researchers posed as targets on dating platforms to gather data and disrupt criminal conduct.
Cyber scams have been increasing worldwide, and scambaiting can be an effective technique for law enforcement to combat these scams.
Scambaiters engage with scammers in order to thwart their criminal activities. They tend to waste perpetrators’ time, expose and humiliate them, which creates a form of entertainment that captures their audience. In the case of romance scams, scambaiters often engage in prolonged interactions with the scammers, which could offer a source of valuable information.
The aim of the project was to model modus operandi of scammers, use the gathered data to explore possible ways to disrupt and frustrate further criminal conduct, and evaluate the potential of such techniques. The researchers faced the challenge of developing a methodology that maximized the possibility of pertinent interaction and created a controlled environment in which scambaiters acted according to a strict code of conduct.
A preliminary phase was conducted, resulting in the identification of suspicious profiles and requests for money. Out of 15,424 profiles encountered on the selected platforms, 1,534 profiles were suspicious according to the guide’s criteria. Given the limited time and resources, it was not possible to interact with every single profile and confirm their fraudulent nature.51 made requests for money within the time frame of the experiment. Such requests were usually made after two to three weeks, but sometimes after only a few days or hours. The requested amounts generally ranged from 100 to 5,000 euros. The payment methods proposed by the scammers were mainly bank transfers, and included cryptocurrency payments, gift cards and payments via international money transfer agencies.
Scambaiting provides valuable information to quantify the extent of the phenomenon and can be used to act against scammers.
Zbinden, R., Beaudet-Labrecque, O., Grandjean, F., Gobeil, C., Brunoni, L., Décary-Hétu, D., & Cretu-Adatte, C. (2023). Scambaiting as a preventive tool in the fight against cyberfrauds: the case of romance scams. The journal on cybercrime & digital investigations.