The YouTube Hero Weaponizing Comedy Against Scammers
It’s sickening how profitable it is to swindle the vulnerable. Just last year, Americans lost around $30 billion to phone scammers, and many of those victims were the elderly. In fact, the problem is so big that there is an entire genre of YouTube channels devoted to the art of “Scam baiting,” where internet vigilantes show off their skills at catching, trolling, and hacking these reprehensible robbers.
These channels range from vexatious to vengeful in their treatment of geriatric-targeting grifters, but one of these internet Batmen stands alone in terms of pure comedy prowess – the YouTuber known only as Kitboga, a sunglass wearing, voice changing, honeypotting hero who spends all day humiliating the most shameless scammers he can find. Kitboga weaponizes comedy to protect the most vulnerable among us from true sickos, and it is a truly endless source of entertainment.
While his real name is not public knowledge for obvious safety concerns, we do know a few important details about the life of Kitboga – growing up, his father would take calls from telemarketers and put the phone on speaker, which queued Kit and his siblings to act out scenes from a chaotic household, pretending to pummel each other while their father yelled at them to cut it out all while apologizing profusely to the exasperated salesman. We also know that Kitboga is a programmer who discovered the world of scam baiting in 2017 when he stumbled upon the famous bait bot “Lenny” while bored at work.
Lenny was a chatbot originally written in 2011 to bait telemarketers with pre-recorded audio files of an elderly Australian man asking open-ended questions and making vague statements about his children, the economy, or the ducks outside his window. Even though there is no voice recognition and the audio clips are chosen randomly with a few seconds of silence between them, plenty of scammers and salesmen have been duped into having extended “conversations” with the bot lasting up to an entire hour before they realized the ruse.
Kitboga was fascinated by Lenny. Kit’s own grandparents (who have since sadly passed) fell victim to numerous phone scams in their advanced age as dementia set in, so seeing these predators get tricked and embarrassed while they’re trying to trick an old man was exhilarating and vindicating to the young Kit.
He began experimenting with scam baiting himself not long after his discovery. Kitboga built a virtual honeypot to bait common tech support scammers who will try to access their victim’s computer and install various kinds of malware. Kit used a virtual machine – basically a fake computer on your computer – along with a VPN and other privacy protections to simulate an easy target that was actually a trap to lure in unsuspecting marks.
The comedy set up used in each of these schemes is one of the oldest premises in humor – one person is trying to get information or action from another person, and the other person simply cannot understand them and can’t get it right. Sometimes called the “frustration game,” it’s a simple exercise in escalation, seeing how angry the straight man can get before he finally snaps. Basically, Kitboga is doing “Who’s on First?” with an unwitting and unwilling partner for literally days at a time.
Kitboga started streaming these experiments on Twitch mostly for his friends, but as his popularity grew, so did the complexity of his stunts. He would go to great lengths to create the facade of the perfect target, even building fake web pages for his fictitious bank accounts at institutions such as “Gull & Bull Financial” and “Second Community American Mutual”, or S.C.A.M. for short.
The game plan for the scam bait changes depending on what kind of swindler Kitboga is reeling in – tech support scammers may see a computer screen completely littered with actual viruses that make it impossible to add another layer of malware. Refund Scammers and IRS Scammers – both thieves who try to get people to buy thousands of dollars in gift cards to pay back fabricated debts – will watch in horror as Kitboga “buys” those gift cards only to redeem the codes himself (another fake webpage, Kit would have to spend about $500,000 a month on gift cards to do it for real).
Kitboga has a wide range of characters that he plays with the assistance of some voice modulators – Edna, his most popular persona, is a very kind and thoughtful older woman who happens to have hearing issues that can cause her to ramble on endlessly over the sound of “Steve” from the “Refund Department” screaming at her to try to get her to stop redeeming the Google Play cards he spent 12 hours attempting to steal from her.
The schemes are painstakingly elaborate – since his channel now has over two million subscribers, Kit has a team of coders and graphic designers assisting him with each prank. Kitboga will have his scammers sing for him, conduct therapy sessions for an unlicensed psychiatrist’s patients (Kit with different voice modulators), even give entire business presentations for fake MLM products like “carrot oil” in hopes of appeasing him and getting access to his Gull & Bull Financial bank account.
What’s truly impressive about each of these stunts is the sheer dedication it takes to drive these scammers as far into insanity as he possibly can – he’ll often stream on Twitch for ten hours straight just talking to one scammer. Then he’ll call that scammer back the next day, and the day after that, keeping them on the hook as long as possible while burning away every last bit of patience they have. His record for a single sucker is 36 hours wasted over the course of multiple days from one call center.
The point of these stunts – other than the obvious entertainment value – is to waste as much time as possible that these scammers could be spending stealing real money from real people. As Kit says, “If I spend a minute on the phone, an hour on the phone, that’s an hour they weren’t talking to someone’s grandma.”
He also believes that each time a scammer gets caught in his snare, it’s an opportunity for them to reevaluate the choices they’ve made that led them to such a dark place as to defraud elderly people for money. Occasionally, scammers will even recognize him and give up the act to have a heart to heart. As Kit likes to say in his streams, “Everyone has the ability to positively or negatively affect the world”, and if just one of these scammers decides to give up a life of crime due to either conscience or consternation, that’s Kitboga moving the needle for humanity.
Kitboga is far from the only prominent scam baiter, although others have chosen a more wrathful approach. Jim Browning is a black hat hacker who exposes the personal information of scammers, steals their stolen money to give it back to their victims, and hacks into CCTV footage at the call centers notorious for their scam operations. He’s even shut down entire call centers all from behind his computer screen.
It’s reassuring to know that these keyboard crusaders are out there distracting and destroying scam operations that would otherwise be busy stealing from our parents and grandparents. But rest assured, if you’re a millennial, you’re just as likely, if not moreso, to fall victim to a scam as a boomer. So until Kitboga perfects his scam-fighting AI, please heed his message and keep your guard up when “Mark” from “Microsoft” tells you to buy some gift cards.
Top Image: YouTube / Kitboga
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