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Mark Rober, a former NASA engineer, has a YouTube channel where he makes cool things like tricky squirrel mazes. But his most popular video series is the annual glitter bomb, which is a beautifully over-engineered fake package that sprays glitter and fart spray on porch pirates. In an unexpected turn, the glitter bomb video from last year also helped police catch and arrest someone who was running a phone scam. Rober spent the next year looking into how these phone scams work. In a new video, he shows off the many things that came out of that effort. For example, he hired double agents to go into phone centers in India and hack their security camera footage.
Of course, he also dropped a stink bomb.
Rober’s crusade began when he and another YouTuber, Jim Browning, worked together to try to send a glitter bomb to a scammer operation. Browning’s entire channel, which has 3.7 million followers, is all about finding the call centers behind tech support scams and refund scams. Most of the time, these scams target older people and people who don’t know much about computers. Usually, the scammers get remote access to your computer and then trick you into giving them personal information like your bank account login. People who fall for “refund” scams think they’ve been overpaid with a fake refund, so they send cash in the mail to the scammers.
People in the U.S. who get these cash packages are basically low-level workers in these scams. After giving them a glitter bomb last year, Rober turned his attention to the call centers themselves. With Browning’s help, they were able to get access to the call centers’ CCTV, while another YouTube pair, Trilogy Media, went to Kolkata, India, to run operations on the ground.
The focus of Trilogy Media’s video is on how they worked with the “sleeper agents” they sent to work in the call centers before setting up pranks like cockroach containers and stink bombs. Browning’s, on the other hand, shows him talking to the con artists, who don’t know that he is watching them on CCTV.
The craziest thing to me about Rober’s video is that they were able to get into at least one scam operation’s financial information by watching the boss type in his computer password while a security camera was recording. It turns out that this scam costs people an average of $65,000 per day or about $18 million per year.
It’s worth your time to watch the videos, both to get a good laugh and to know what to look out for if scammers ever call you. Even though the pranks are fun, it’s frustrating to know that, at least in the city of Kolkata, the police don’t care much about them. But Rober’s group did make a difference: they were able to shut down another call center in another part of the country. Videos like these, which have already been watched millions of times, might at least make fewer people fall for scam calls.
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