Tech & Science

Meet Kitboga, the YouTuber Exposing the World’s Scariest Tech Support Scams

With 200,000 followers on Twitch and millions of YouTube views, Kitboga is a popular streamer known for scambaiting tech support scammers. Kitboga/YouTube

On Twitch and YouTube, Kitboga spends most days delving into the murky world of tech support scams. Donning aviator sunglasses and sometimes a wig, he is a rising star in the live-streaming scene, using voice-altering computer software to play the role of colorful characters including elderly grandmother Edna, Eastern European man Victor Victohr and U.S. Valley girl Nevaeh.

In April, roughly a year after undertaking the project, he passed a milestone on Twitch by reaching 200,000 followers. When he started, Kitboga—who hides his real-world identity beneath this online alias for safety reasons—was streaming one day a week; it’s now his full-time gig. These days, he invests hours into researching the scams, tinkering with his virtual machine and finding new “silly sounds and music” for his work.

He specializes in what's commonly known as scambaiting. Posing as a victim, his primary aim is to waste the time and resources of the call operators who are helping to sell the racket.

Unlike others on the scene who use a more aggressive approach by hacking or toying with viruses, Kitboga relies on peaceful tactics, including comedy. That’s not to say he doesn’t have to be careful. “I've had reactions ranging from laughter to shock to death threats,” he told Newsweek

Kitboga YouTuber and Twitch streamer Kitboga on the reason he is compelled to pursue scambaiters: “My grandparents got taken advantage of as they got older, trusting just about anyone who called.” Kitboga/YouTube

“My favorite reactions are when the scammer begins to get angry at the character but then opens up and talks to my real voice at the end,” he continued. “One of the most shocking experiences was when a scammer claimed to be me when he thought he was talking to my bank. I had a friend join the call and pretend to be my banker who was going to verify the charges on the fake credit card I gave him. He began yelling: ‘Mr. Banker, this man is a fraud! It's me, Mr. Banker, approve the charges now!’”

On a daily basis, thousands of viewers tune in to watch him in action on Twitch. On YouTube, his videos have been watched millions of times collectively. Kitboga has gotten into rap battles and riled someone up to the extent they threatened to slap a granny’s fictitious cat. In one of the more serious videos this month, he met a seemingly remorseful tech support operator who explained he was feeling guilty after hearing about the alleged suicide of an elderly woman from Texas who had been defrauded.

That last example, Kitboga explained, is one of the reasons he started the project in the first place. For him, it's personal. “My grandparents got taken advantage of as they got older, trusting just about anyone who called,” the streamer told Newsweek. “[I was] compelled to do something, even though some consider it small. I started researching these scams and calling them up to waste their time.”

Over time, his own procedure has become a well-oiled operation. Using a virtual machine—an emulation of a computer rather than real, exploitable, hardware—he keeps technicians busy for hours and stays anonymous with the help of special software known as a virtual private network, or VPN.

He lures them with folders, some labeled “bank” and “nudes” (the latter containing pictures of naked mole rats). The results veer from laugh-out-loud to blisteringly awkward, as operators are duped into thinking they have a real victim on the line. In most streams, he ends up barely holding back laughter.

“I went to school for computer science and have a background in software engineering, but I've learned a lot from hours of researching and talking to folks I have met from the Twitch community,” Kitboga said, discussing how he is able to trick the tech support culprits so effectively. He is well-prepped.

“I can't speak about all of the specifics, but I never use my real computer or give personal information to these criminals, no matter how friendly they are,” he continued. “My team and I have spent countless hours ‘spoofing’ our virtual machine to look and feel like a well-used, average computer. Scammers can rarely detect that it's a VM at this point. I'm also behind a VPN that hides my real location.”

What Is a Tech Support Scam?

In most cases, scams follow the same routine, often working from a script. Victims are typically web users who have seen a pop-up on their screen or a warning about a fake virus infection and follow up.

When a victim makes contact they will be met by a man or woman pretending to be from Microsoft or Apple support. Within minutes, they gain access to a machine and run scans that make it appear as though there are hackers on the computer. To an untrained eye, the claims may be convincing.

Most, but not all, have links to India—but those working the call centers are not always criminals. Many workers, investigations have shown, may have been simply desperate for work. Based on insider reports, call operators have an entry level salary of £250 to £350 (approximately $295 to $412) per month and get a commission for carrying out a successful fraud. They often attempt to force victims to buy Google Play cards and steal the codes.

In March this year, the FBI’s Internet Crime Center (IC3) said that in 2017 it received around 11,000 complaints related to tech support fraud. U.S. losses totaled nearly $15 million, it revealed.

Kitboga Kitboga spends hours every day (often in sunglasses and a wig) delving into the murky world of tech support scams. Many have links to India—where call-center workers are not necessarily criminals but may have been simply desperate for work. Kitboga/YouTube

According to Which?, a consumer help organization based in the U.K., the majority of support scams are known to target older citizens. “U.K. customers are usually very rich. Old ladies start crying the moment you tell them that there’s a problem with their computer, so you have to proceed delicately,” Aman Sivaram, one former support caller, told the publication last year.

There are other aggressive variants. Some pose as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or another U.S. government department to demand payment. Operators say failure to comply will result in a swift arrest.

Kitboga said there are some ways to fight back against the scams. “One thing I've learned that I think is important for everyone to know is how much these scammers hate when you ask questions.

“They want to get through their script and take your money as fast as possible,” he added. “While I hope to raise awareness, so people don't call them in the first place, if you ever suspect you may be involved with a scam or an illegitimate company, ask a lot of questions. Have them verify who they work for over and over again. That's the most common way they've gotten angry and hung up on me during the calls.

“Legitimate companies will be happy to discuss these things,” the YouTuber continued, adding, “Almost every scam that I have run into over the past year works off of scaring victims into trusting them.”

In the majority of videos, some of which can last for hours, the streamer usually ends by switching from his character to his real voice; offering advice to a usually exasperated call operator. In some cases this will devolve into the scammer shouting obscenities. But Kitboga, aligning with research into these scams, maintains that not everyone he has encountered should be considered a total crook.

“From what I have experienced, there are usually a lot of new employees who are instructed to follow a script and transfer to a more experienced scammer once the individual has gotten connected to the computer, for example,” he explained to Newsweek. “There is a chance some of the entry level folks don't even know what they're getting themselves into; some seem to really think they're helping you.

“I always try to explain what is really going on when I get the chance.”

You can check out Kitboga streaming daily on Twitch and uploading frequently to YouTube

YouTuber Kitboga YouTuber and Twitch streamer Kitboga shared, “I've had reactions ranging from laughter to shock to death threats.” Kitboga/YouTube

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