Catphishing the Catphisher
An Investigative Report – March 2023
Nisos researchers investigated how scammers on social media target and exploit vulnerable populations in an effort to extort money and personal information from victims. The purpose of this report is to better inform individuals and caretakers about common tactics, methods, procedures, and warning signs associated with potential threats.
Criminals most frequently target the elderly, those whose online presence indicates that they may be looking for a relationship, and/or people who appear to be emotionally vulnerable. However, these scammers generally cast a wide net and will engage with all who respond, at least to vet the potential victim’s willingness and ability to meet their requests. Anyone can be a victim.
During the course of our investigation, we received numerous flattering messages via social media accounts prior to the scammers asking for significant sums of money. While all of the users of these social media accounts claimed to be US citizens or to live in the United States, we identified the actual location for four of these individuals to be operating from Nigeria and Ghana. Based on similarities in methodology and lexicon, we assert that the others were also similarly located.
Nisos began this investigation with the expectation of it taking weeks or even months to establish a social media presence that would entice scammers to contact us. In less than 24 hours after our first social media post, multiple accounts contacted us with flattering language and requests to migrate the conversation to other chat platforms to avoid detection.
We gathered the examples outlined in this report over the course of four days. This time frame was significantly shorter than initially planned due to the volume of results we collected. This window demonstrates how quickly scammers work to identify and approach users on social media accounts that they deem as potentially vulnerable.
Nisos prepared for this investigation by interviewing victims who had been scammed within the last 18 months. Their feedback helped to identify the following methods of targeting and attack, which we corroborated through our similar experience.
To learn more, download the complete Nisos Research report.
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