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 Closing lad accounts - good idea or bad idea?

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Poll :: Closing lad accounts - good idea or bad idea?

Good idea
4%
 4%  [ 7 ]
Bad idea
88%
 88%  [ 126 ]
I can't decide
6%
 6%  [ 9 ]
Total Votes : 142


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komsomol
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:06 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Ivor Grimey Colon wrote:
[...]it wouldn't have prevented to scam from being run, nor the victim in question falling for it.

I may not have expressed myself clearly enough. In my hypothetical situation it would be clear that yes, having the account closed would have most probably saved the victim from being scammed. Sorry, my bad. Please adjust your reasoning accordingly.

(For example, we could have closed down the account PRIOR to the victim got hooked in the first place.)


Last edited by komsomol on Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:08 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

5 months harrassment is more damaging than a 5 minute inconvenience.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:15 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

komsomol wrote:


But you must understand that this site is about ridiculing criminals and we can't stop them without that, it's part of this social thing we do for the best of the world! We even have a policy here that no scammer account may be disrupted while someone is having fun with the scammer!"



I agree with some of your points previously raised and can understand your reasoning. Though i agree more with the "general rule" that if it costs the mugu's money then we close it. Keeps it nice and simple. The mass closing system you mention is a lovely idea in principle, but we live in the real world and i can't see major corporations going for it.

However i totally disagree with the above statement. Yes "ridiculing criminals" is one thing that happens here, some baiters specifically aim to do that others don't, but the main aim is to frustrate them, waste their time, effort, energy and resources, ridiculing them is a by product, not the only aim of baiting or of this site.

As for the policy, could you (or anyone else) please post a link/ruling or anything else where it specifically says that.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:18 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

To carry your 'what-if' even further, komsomol, why not just apply to that baiting across the board?

Using your example, each baiter who baits and doesn't report that lad's email account to get it closed is responsible for victims who are scammed, no?

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:21 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Nice little poll Zen. Shocked Wink

It seems to me that shutting down ladboxes should be avoided from a baiter's perspective unless: (1) that baiter knew that shutting down the box would stop some immediate harm from occurring and that the intended victim could somehow be made aware of the scammer such that the scammer merely opening up another box wouldn't allow him to continue the scam; or (2) you could reliably shut down a very large % of boxes reliably and quickly (along the lines of what komsomol is getting at -- but which I believe he would admit he's not quite there yet). The obvious benefit of this is that scams wouldn't be able to get off the ground quickly enough to do any harm and lads would often times lose their mass email address lists.

Otherwise, when you shut down a lad's box you move him from the known to the unknown -- which doesn't do anyone but the lad any good.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:34 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Donato wrote:
[...] but the main aim is to frustrate them, waste their time, effort, energy and resources, ridiculing them is a by product, not the only aim of baiting or of this site.

You are perfectly right and I'm sorry that I did not describe the aim of baiting at eater so accurately in my post while quoting a fictitious baiter. Please consider as if I had.

Donato wrote:
As for the policy

That policy is a fiction.

TSnerd wrote:
Using your example, each baiter who baits and doesn't report that lad's email account to get it closed is responsible for victims who are scammed, no?

Unfortunately the same problem I sought to draw your attention to appears to apply here as well. I'm not saying that I'm the wise guy here who is outsmarting everyone else on this board (probably the contrary is true). I consider this a dilemma and I don't know how to solve it either. I truly think that this ethical problem exists here, although we can act is if it wasn't there, no problem.


Last edited by komsomol on Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:53 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:39 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

One of the things I have asked a couple of Abuse Departments is whether, when they terminate phone lad accounts, they could generate a bounce message that reads:

"This account has been closed as it was being used in connection with fraudulent activity"

The immediate answer was "No way, Jose! Way too difficult"

But I believe the idea is now on one or two Abuse Admins' Christmas Wish List Wink

I wonder if that might make a difference some time in the future???

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komsomol
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:44 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

JMRazor wrote:
(2) you could reliably shut down a very large % of boxes reliably and quickly (along the lines of what komsomol is getting at -- but which I believe he would admit he's not quite there yet).

That's very true. Very Happy Presently it's 106 "bad idea" and 5 "good idea" (one of which is my vote). I'm absolutely nowhere with this thing other than I have the idea itself. From the technical point of view, btw, it is a piece of cake.

What counts, however, is that judged by the poll result, I have about zero supporters. Don't hold your breath, I am the least significant barefoot peasant on this planet, there is no chance I could get what I want from the webmail providers alone, without any support. I neither have the social, nor the communication nor the language skill to pull this off on my own, so this project is pretty much set to fail.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:57 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

^^ But who knows. Without you it might have been 110 "bad idea" and 0 "good idea"
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 8:03 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Mine was a no and I'm just baiting to waste their time. Confused

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komsomol
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 8:16 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I've just realized that my determination to persuade you is eventually broken. I've compiled a relatively large post with arguments against each remaining points of you that I have not addressed yet, but I now see that it's all pointless. Smile

I could make my points and this I did in more words than I probably should have, unfortunately stretching your patience from time to time. At the same time I've learned your opinion, which although I cannot adopt, I highly value.

Thanks to all for the discussion. Wink
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 8:19 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

komsomol wrote:
But the major effect is that scamming will be more concentrated to fewer providers than it is now, especially off the major providers.


I'm not so sure about the "fewer" portion of that sentence. Less desirable providers, probably. Fewer, not necessarily. I mean, a search for "free email account" and "sign up" gives you well up toward a million hits. I guess they could scatter among hundreds or thousands of minor providers instead.

Mostly, I still have pretty large doubts that any major provider, much less most or all of them, is going to go for any automated abuse reporting system they don't develop in house. It sounds wonderful and socially and corporately responsible and so forth, but if there isn't some large potential profit in it, or at least some bragging rights for developing it or marketing it, most major corporations aren't even going to listen to the pitch, much less adopt it. They would be more likely to take it to court to drag out some ancient patent or copyright they have on file to prevent you offering it to their competitors, probably.

Mind, I'm a bit more cynical about such things because I work for an educational institution. We explore a lot of freeware and shareware, homegrown solutions and other collaborative solutions to problems lots of institutions have, as well as commercial solutions that don't actually cost us an arm and a leg to support. One thing I've noticed over and over again is the fact that as soon as a reasonably useful free or low cost solution comes along and gets developed to any degree of real usefulness, it is, nine times out of ten, promptly bought or sued out of existence by some large corporation which offers a similar service or software.

I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see most providers making ridding themselves of scammers a high priority.That would be the main hurdle. They probably do the minimum to avoid being sued or blacklisted across the board, by and large. Providers that get ad revenue, particularly. It would probably take some sort of large scale "market force", for lack of a better word, to even get providers to consider it. The thing that popped into my head just now was the Betamax vs. VHS format wars back when videotapes were introduced. All the experts agreed that Betamax was the obviously superior format. Consumers voted with their wallets, but they disagreed with the experts, so the "superior" product became largely extinct.

I'm just not sure how we could get free email users to exert that same kind of "market force" that would get the message across that avoiding scammers is important enough to the average free email user that they're willing to vote with their "wallets". Or in this case, I guess, it would be more like voting with their eyeballs. Until the providers get that message, I'm wondering if they'll even be interested in finding a solution or if they would even consider it a problem.

This is one of those times where I rather wish I could bend the ear of a corporate type inside Yahoo or a similar company, to see if they do consider it a problem worth fixing.

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komsomol
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 10:17 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

You're right. The number of providers the lads would be herded to would probably increase, as opposed to what I was stating. I've actually had something else in my mind when I (wrongly) wrote "fewer". There is something that would be getting reduced here, but it's not the number of abused providers. The email volume per provider would decrease and that's an important factor. Yahoo email users for example generate tremendous traffic, so the proportion signal to noise, i.e. genuine volume to spam volume will always be ok, regardless of how many Nigerians abuse their services - this is why Yahoo won't ever get blacklisted for spam. Now, if for some reason scammers decided to frequent a much smaller webmail provider with much less traffic volume, that domain is much more likely to get blacklisted. Although lads abuse such relatively small webmail providers today, the traffic generated is probably not sufficient for blacklisting, since the majority of such scammers will currently be absorbed by the giant webmailers. This situation could dramatically change if by some chance the lads could be expelled there.

As to the other issue, the bulk reporting interface. I may have evoked the wrong impression that we're talking about something complicated. This is not the case. Just check out http://add.yahoo.com/fast/help/abuse/cgi_abuse and understand that this webform with just a couple of fields is about as complicated as what would be needed on the provider's side as to implement their part of the interface. That the form wouldn't be submitted by a human using a browser but by another computer is a side issue and it makes things easier instead of more complex. As to what steps are to be taken as to decide whether a submitted email allegedly in violation of ToS really qualifies to be locked down, there are, as far as I can recognize, just two issues: 1) does the submitted email genuinely originate from our realm 2) does the content constitute a violation of ToS. As to 1), it would be easy to check automatically. No provider would allow ever without rigorous checks on the content accounts to be set for deletion, this is just not going to happen. Probably the first 10,000 submitted abuse reports would be checked one by one manually, until it becomes clear that the source is indeed accurate and reliable. Then maybe just 1 in every 10 emails from that particular source would be checked by humans, and all of them using a trained bayesian filter. This is not far fetched, Microsoft's infamous, annoying abuse address is obviously a bot and I'm willing to bet any amount of money that large parts of the automatic checking and content prediction will rely using such filters, followed by the invokation of a disgustingly annoying response generator, but that's another story.

And at last here's my naive hope how I would enlist the large providers to play ball: I would gently and very politely flood them, starting with relatively small amounts like 10-20 account closure requests per day until someone eventually comes and asks me to piss off. Then I would increase the amount of requests per day and start suggesting that I could also make it much, much easier for them. Wink I don't see why they wouldn't comply. All I would be doing is reporting abuse originating from their domain. In fact, I can't even see how large providers could refuse to take action.

By the way, as far as I know Yahoo already takes bulk reports from http://phonelads.com, however, circumstances are different. The mere fact that Yahoo does that makes me think that they might be willing to do it again.


Last edited by komsomol on Mon Mar 26, 2007 10:21 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 10:21 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

@Komsomol - I suspect that the hypothetical ethical quandry that you describe is unlikely to occur. If contributors to Surplus Letters start to think that other baiters will not benefit from their posts, they will soon stop posting altogther, IMO. So the steady-state choices seem to be:
- an empty Surplus Letters forum (ethically watertight, but pointless)
- a Surplus Letters forum whose posts are reserved for other baiters to use

But thanks for the contributions. I suspect you have shifted a few opinions, including mine, even if we haven't taken it to the same conclusions as you. Yet.

Edit: posted that when I thought you were dropping out of the debate, but I see you're still here Smile

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 4:35 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I'd like to put this in 'blonde' terms so I can understand it and give my vote....

a) If it was possible to get service providers to weedle out scam mails en masse, therefor end scammers business as much as possible, then YES, close accounts. (Although if there were no more scammers, what would I do with my life?) Shocked

b) Closing accounts one by one on my own...NO. Pointless.

I would however like to say "Thankyou" for this poll, as a newby, I've learnt alot!

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:10 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Like my godmother (now dead) used to tell me the old adage--

"It's like cutting off your nose to spite your face"..

I too used to get the Lads shut down fast at [email protected] But realized that it's better to be able to continuously bait them at the same e-mail and also not spoil it for other baiters.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 11:51 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Komsomol very kindly responded to a series of PMs I had about his proposed scheme. Following that, I think that, could his system be applied to the big names (Yahoo, Hotmail, GMail) then it could be a good first step. If the lads scattered to smaller providers, reporting on an individual basis to these providers could well overwhelm them forcing them to come on board with the main scheme.

However, I think we are not in an 'ideal' situation where such a scheme is practicable. GMail and Hotmail/MSN are useless at shutting down phone lad accounts, for example so there's no reason to suppose they'd be any better with an even *higher* volume of reports.

Certainly, closing down on an individual basis has little or no impact on the lads' resources, and has a significant risk to real victims attached.

So I voted 'no' in the poll, but I hope that the email providers will mature to the point where the proposed scheme could be implemented.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 12:07 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

heres_jonny wrote:
GMail and Hotmail/MSN are useless at shutting down phone lad accounts


Whoa! That is no longer the case.

Hotmail only have 7 phone lads left in the Phonelads database, all of them reported in the last 24 hours.

Even GMail are responding, but they need regular nudging.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 12:26 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I stand both corrected and ashamed Embarassed

But my point is that they aren't very consistent, and the proposed scheme relies on consistent and rapid shutdowns of accounts to prevent real victims from replying and having their addresses used for contact from a non-catcher account.


Not really my original point, I suppose, but still true

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 3:13 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I voted "No". In a perfect world, komosol's idea of shutting down lad email addy's en masse would be great. But I am unsure what the end result would ultimately be (and this is assuming if you could get full cooperation from many email service providers, which would be very difficult IMHO). I cannot speak for everyone here, but most of the lads that initially contact me (whether through the 419 Shuttle, through harvesting my email address from a guestbook I have signed, etc.) use a bombing email addy that is completely different from their working addy...and many times from different email providers ie. virgilio.it addy bombing with a yahoo addy as a reply to or listed in the body of the email as the way to contact the lad. Even then, there is sometimes a level or two that you must move up to before you are communicating to an account that I believe "might" be worthy of killing because their could be other vics emailing the same account. Even then, how do we know that a vic isnt communicating with the lad through other accounts?

The whole reason why lads use bombing accounts is because they are expendable...and one could easily conclude that it is a direct reaction to having their accounts closed down. Would killing a ton of bombing accounts save some people? Perhaps. But mostly likely, the number would be very very small as opposed to killing a working account that a lad might be using to communicate with a dozen or more vics. And that is just one working account. Most lads have many of these. I have lads that easily have more than 50 email accounts. I think this would be the norm although I have no hard data to prove otherwise. The thing is, I wouldn't know my lad had this many accounts if I just went ahead and killed the account that he/she initially contacted me from. I spent the time to figure these details out.

I honestly believe that the most damage is done on a personal, and human, level. IMO, having some automated system that kills lad accounts based on their first email would not be nearly as effective as some might think...but again, thats just my opinion and you can take it as you want.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 4:25 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Thanks for the feedback, guys. The aspects you have just mentioned are all very good, very valid and they give me plausible reasons to be concerned about.

When I initially described my proposal here I've already had the scenario mentioned by you, Big Worm, in mind, where the spamming account is different from the designated account of contact. I am aware that some lads put a different address into Reply-To, and that many others mention the other account in the body of their opening letter. While I think that this practice is not very common, it probably would get increasingly common, especially if someone started mass-closing the lads' spammer accounts. I originally believed that this issue could be overcome by reporting the spam not only to the provider of origin, but also to the provider of the designated contact account. Based on what has been brought to my knowledge in this thread (and also in PMs) by people who have far more experience than I with abuse departments of the webmail providers, I understand that the latter almost certainly would not take action in this case.

My next best shot is that in such cases the spamtrap will automatically undertake an attempt to send a generic enquiry to the designated email address along the lines of
spamtrap wrote:
Thank you for your email, I'm really interested! Please tell me more.

...picked from a list of 100 or so variants (similarly to the first step of a baiting bot). The lad will probably reply and thereby link his opening letter to the address of contact. With this piece of evidence an automatic report (including the original opening letter) will be generated and sent to the appropriate provider.

As to your general objection, Big Worm, that the whole bulk report plot is unlikely to work because lads have 50 or so email addresses which can't be exposed that way, I wish to add that although I agree that it would be very desirable to have them all closed down somehow, I also know that it's obviously impossible. In spite of this, please consider that the amount of victim responses is proportional to the amount of 419 opening letters sent, and the amount of successfully scammed victims is proportional to the amount of (initial) victim contacts. Thus, cutting the victim contacts by 5%, 10% or 15% is likely to cut the amount of successfully scammed victims by 5%, 10% or 15%, respectively. I don't see how the 50 accounts of each lad could fit into this formula. In other words, no matter whether a lad has 5, 50 or 500 accounts, if his victim responses can be cut, his chance of success will be reduced proportionally to the success of cutting. The way to working on magas in "secret" (i.e. publicly non-exposed) accounts always goes through initial contact accounts. I may be totally mislead or naive, but if so, please tell me where the flaw is in my reasoning.

@heres_jonny - I take your objections very seriously too. As also pointed out by others, such giant providers are at best very reluctant to show that level of cooperation that would be required to even think about to go the route I proposed. With no supportive members, my absolute importance is comparable to that of a single bit on a never-used sector of a harddrive in a dusty PC somewhere in hotmail's giant serverpark, a bit that is currently 0 and that will never flip to 1. Eater is gigantic, eater is powerful; members are numerous, so this place has influence. If the poll miraculously had ended with the opposite outcome (unlike 111:6), with a concentrated effort - including but not limited to: mentioning the problem during subsequent interviews about eater and sending mass complaints to providers ( la aa419, for example) - a change in the mindset of these webmail providers possibly could have been reached. The facts remain facts: the poll shows that eater members refuse the idea of account killings, and also that they have good reasons to do so.

I have very little doubt that I will fail, but fortunately I'm quite well experienced in that Wink. Still I kinda like the English proverb "you gotta do what you gotta do".

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Brad Bateman
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 5:26 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Very interesting thread so far Wink

May I take it off at a tangent and ask whether anyone has thought of, or has any ideas on getting suppliers to shut down lad phone numbers (typically UK +44 70****) which they have diverted to mobile phones, often in Nigeria.

That is something that might hurt them in the pocket.

Thoughts from The Panel please - particularly anyone who knows their way round the telecomms industry.

Twisted Evil

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pfiesty
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 10:39 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Actually, I doubt that having a freemail provider suddenly become ultra-cooperative in shutting down scam accounts would herd the lads to the non-cooperative ones. For years, fake bank killers have speculated anxiously that publishing "bad hoster" lists would send banks there en masse. Even the "good hoster" list is suspect -- maybe they will stay away from Bluetower and we won't have easy kills anymore, for example. Three years later, I still see just as many fakers on Bluetower, even from bankers who I am SURE have been shut down by them before. I still see few lads on Chinese hosters aside from one specific gang.

I know that's an imperfect analogy; hosting costs money and is a much bigger investment , so lads gravitate to the cheaper plans (which often are on nice hosters Laughing ), and they also stay away from languages they don't speak (e.g. Chinese). How the scenario would play out if all options were free, I don't know. But closing lad accounts isn't unheard of, despite the common practice of scambaiters... it happens, a lot, and scammers don't say "gosh I'll never use that provider again!" Hell, most of the time their explanation is that they've been hacked by the competition... with a Yahoo account, for example, there is no way to tell whether it's locked for TOS violation, or because somebody has changed the password.

I'd be thrilled to see an automatic abuse generator such as komsomol describes, although the technical and logistical realities make it sadly unlikely. I always have thought that closing scammer accounts (whether they be catchers or barristers) is a very gray area, with varying benefits and drawbacks depending on the situation. So I vote "undecided" -- the vast majority of my time I won't waste on complaining about accounts, given the ease with which they are replaced; however, there are still lots of occasions (beyond the obvious phone lad accounts or paid-for accounts) when I will cheerfully close them.

Shutting down accounts in Surplus Accounts is rather silly, though, as it implies a lot of time investment for very little benefit.


@Brad -- lots of the UK forwarding plans are zero cost (I have one). It's a lot more suspicious to have a "barrister's" phone suddenly not work anymore, though (in my opinion), so it would be an option very worth exploring.

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Saint Arnold
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:35 am Reply with quoteBack to top

komsomol has a very interesting approach. Mostly the technical hurdles are minor. I'm just now wrapping up a project at work using a J2EE server to take a file, convert it to an industry standard XML schema, and upload it to a trading partner. This isn't anything particularly gee-whiz these days, and it would be trivial to create an interface for a spam trap to do something similar. RosettaNet security could be used to guarantee that both ends of the transaction are who they say they are. The spamtrap would need to be clever enough to guarantee that all messages it forwarded on to the provider were in fact scam/spam letters, but that's fairly simple also (parse the message for the word "Soludo", for instance!).

I'm also willing to assume that you could find an email provider that would look at this as a competitive advantage. That may not be accurate, but for the sake of argument let's say it is. You could probably find a skunkworks department inside, say, Microsoft willing to implement something like this on MSN (although you'd have to promise not to use Java as the messaging server but that's a different issue altoghether!). So now say that works, and scam mail from MSN gets cut by 75%. Fastmail sees it and decides they better hop on board. Finally all the major providers do this. (This is a large stretch of the imagination - you have to believe that the providers see some sort of financial benefit here, even if it's intangible goodwill.)

What's the result? Well, all the sophisticated spam filters haven't stopped spammers, they've just made spammers smarter. It's Darwinian. If you make it more difficult to scam, the better and brighter scammers will be the ones to survive. It's more expensive and more difficult to set up a Web site to support your scam, but once you make that step you have automatically made your scam more believable - we have a number of baiters who have set up Web sites to support their baits (myself included) because those sites lend credence to the baits.

So you get the sites shut down when they are at Bluetower. There are still hosters in cash starved countries (like the Chinese ones mentioned above) that don't even seem to have abuse departments. Sooner or later you'd have the cream of the crop scamming from there.

Halfway through that paragraph I realized it sounded much more negative than I intended. Probably a better way to phrase what I mean is this: I think that a perfectly functioning spamtrap system would seriously hurt the lower ends of the scammer foodchain. I think it would also train the more imaginative lads to be much better at what they do, and would probably help make them more immune to our efforts.

With all that said, wouldn't it be an interesting experiment? komsomol, there are several folks here who have the technical expertise to build these systems. I'd bet that if you could find a mid-tier provider willing to work with us, we could put together a test system and see what happened.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:56 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Ummmmmmmmm DUH

Just like the post in the link you added - I just recently had a lad's account get closed and I now can't contact him. He had sent me fake money - and photos of "herself" and some other stuff. I had such a good time with this guy, and he was going to be a good one to keep. Some A$$hole had to then turn him down and get the account closed.

All my time and energy - WASTED.

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