These Dangerous Scammers Don’t Even Bother to Hide Their Crimes | #youtubescams | #lovescams | #datingscams

In a series of posts in one Telegram channel, highlighted by Warner, who is also involved in Intelligence for Good, one cybercriminal can be seen walking others through how to run a sextortion scam. They say they tricked people into sharing nude images—posting screenshots of the conversation—and explained ways other people can replicate it. “Hey I am posting your naked pictures on social media and Facebook,” says a sample message cybercriminals could use. “Am not just posting it am sending copies of it to your area,” the message says, before demanding $700.

While the scripts like these are shared on all social media channels, WIRED found at least 80 on the document-sharing service Scribd. The company removed them after WIRED got in touch, with a spokesperson saying there are limits on what people can upload and that the company has automated and manual reviews to remove content. “We’re actively building out new capabilities to broaden the scope of content moderation coverage to include a wider range of concerning text and image violations,” the spokesperson says. Some of the scripts had been online since 2020, and on pages where they were removed a “reading suggestions” section recommended other scam scripts.

Raffile says the Yahoo Boys have been able to “thrive” online “due to lack of moderation around all the illicit material” that they’re sharing. “They’re acting with impunity because they feel they will never get caught,” Raffile says.

Beyond the messaging platforms, the Yahoo Boys have a presence on TikTok and YouTube. “We design our app to be inhospitable to those who seek to exploit our community and we’ve removed this content for violating our policies,” a TikTok spokesperson says.

“Our policies prohibit spam, scams, or other deceptive practices that take advantage of the YouTube community,” a YouTube spokesperson says. “We also prohibit videos that encourage illegal or dangerous activities. As such, we have terminated the flagged channels for violating our policies and our terms of service.” They add that the company removed accounts for breaching policies about harmful content, spam, and generally violating its terms of service.

The accounts posted tutorials about how to scam people, link to groups on messaging apps, and promote technology for fake video calls. On TikTok, multiple accounts include carousels of images that the scammers can use in their efforts to create believable personas. Some of these include posts of elderly women for scammers who are in “need of grandma pictures for proof” of their fake identities and others for scammers who “need kids pics” for their victims.

As well as being a threat to thousands of people around the world, the Yahoo Boys can be quick to adopt new technologies. David Maimon, a professor at Georgia State University and the head of fraud insights at the identity-verification firm SentiLink, has monitored Yahoo Boys for years and says their techniques have evolved alongside new technologies.

“To build rapport with victims, the fraudsters first used text messages, then started sending recorded audio messages, to now using deepfake tools to communicate with victims live,” Maimon says. “On some of the markets we now also see the use of cloned voices. It is now accompanied with sending physical items to victims such as presents, food deliveries, and flowers.” Within some groups, they use “nudification” tools to turn photos of people clothed into nude photos, and deepfake video calls.

While the Yahoo Boys have been active for years, all the experts spoken to for this piece say they should be treated more seriously by social media companies and law enforcement. “It’s time that we start looking at Yahoo Boys as a dangerous organization, transnational organized crime, and start giving it some of those labels,” Raffile says.

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