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Unmask A Scammer: A Day In The Life

A shadowy figure representing a con artist at a cluttered desk with devices, fraudulent documents, and scam messages in a dark and secretive setting.


A Day In The Life of a Scammer

Imag¬≠ine the joy of being able to unmask a scam¬≠mer. You can envi¬≠sion them wak¬≠ing up in the morn¬≠ing with a sin¬≠gle goal: to deceive and defraud inno¬≠cent peo¬≠ple out of their hard-earned mon¬≠ey. This is the real¬≠i¬≠ty for many scam¬≠mers, who spend their days metic¬≠u¬≠lous¬≠ly plan¬≠ning and exe¬≠cut¬≠ing elab¬≠o¬≠rate schemes. By step¬≠ping into the shoes of a con artist for a day, we can bet¬≠ter under¬≠stand their tac¬≠tics and pro¬≠tect our¬≠selves from falling vic¬≠tim to their deceit. 

A dark and secretive workspace of a scammer. The shadowy figure in a hoodie sits at a cluttered desk with multiple computer screens displaying fake websites, phishing emails, and social media scams. Various tech gadgets and notes are scattered around. A clock in the background shows different times of the day, highlighting the continuous nature of the scammer's work.
A Scam­mer’s Work­place

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the mind of a scam­mer, uncov­er their tools of the trade, and learn how to safe­guard our­selves from their destruc­tive tac­tics.

The Anatomy of a Scam: Unmask A Scammer

Scam­mers come in many forms, each employ­ing a vari­ety of tac­tics to achieve their goals. Find out how to unmask a scam­mer and see some of the most com­mon types of scams they per­form:

  1. Phish­ing: This involves send­ing fraud­u­lent emails or mes­sages that appear to be from legit­i­mate sources to trick recip­i­ents into reveal­ing per­son­al infor­ma­tion, such as pass­words or cred­it card num­bers.
  2. Iden­ti­ty Theft: Scam­mers steal per­son­al infor­ma­tion to imper­son­ate their vic­tims, open­ing new accounts or mak­ing unau­tho­rized trans­ac­tions in their names.
  3. Romance Scams: Fraud­sters cre­ate fake pro­files on dat­ing sites or social media to estab­lish roman­tic rela­tion­ships with vic­tims, ulti­mate­ly con­vinc­ing them to send mon­ey.
  4. Lot­tery Scams: Vic­tims are told they’ve won a lot­tery or sweep­stakes but need to pay a fee to claim their prize, which doesn’t exist.
  5. Tech Sup­port Scams: Scam­mers pose as tech sup­port rep­re­sen­ta­tives, claim­ing the vic­tim’s com­put­er has a virus and demand­ing pay­ment for unnec­es­sary repairs.

What makes these scams effec­tive is the psy­cho­log­i­cal manip­u­la­tion involved. Scam­mers exploit emo­tions such as fear, greed, and love to manip­u­late their vic­tims. Under­stand­ing these psy­cho­log­i­cal tricks is key to rec­og­niz­ing and avoid­ing scams.

The Scammer Art of Picking a Fake Name

To tru¬≠ly under¬≠stand the mind of a scam¬≠mer, let‚Äôs fol¬≠low a fic¬≠tion¬≠al nar¬≠ra¬≠tive from the per¬≠spec¬≠tive of a con artist named John.  Why use the name John for our fic¬≠tion¬≠al scam¬≠mer?  Because John is one of the more com¬≠mon male names used by male scam¬≠mers. Male scam¬≠mers like to keep their fake names sim¬≠ple. In fact, a very, very high per¬≠cent¬≠age of male scam¬≠mers will use names that basi¬≠cal¬≠ly sound like two first names.  Exam¬≠ples would be Charles John¬≠son, Mike Scott, Doug Matthews, William Roberts, John Stephen, etc.

Many exposed male scam¬≠mers have used this sim¬≠plis¬≠tic two first name strat¬≠e¬≠gy. Part of the rea¬≠son for this stems from the fact that many scam¬≠mers are for¬≠eign¬≠ers. A large major¬≠i¬≠ty of scam¬≠mers live over¬≠seas; specif¬≠i¬≠cal¬≠ly West Africa. So these scam¬≠mers have strong for¬≠eign accents and have dif¬≠fi¬≠cul¬≠ty pro¬≠nounc¬≠ing some Eng¬≠lish words. So they like to keep it sim¬≠ple!  Why use a name like Thad¬≠deus Mis¬≠chkows¬≠ki, when a sure-fire, easy name like John Scott is out there for the tak¬≠ing?

Help¬≠ful Tip:  If You meet some¬≠one online and they have two first names for their full name, use this as your first clue you may be deal¬≠ing with a scam¬≠mer!

A Day in the Life of a Con Artist

John‚Äôs day is metic¬≠u¬≠lous¬≠ly planned, with each step care¬≠ful¬≠ly designed to max¬≠i¬≠mize his chances of suc¬≠cess.  His pri¬≠ma¬≠ry goal is to steal peo¬≠ple‚Äôs hard-earned mon¬≠ey!

A stressed person dealing with scams throughout the day, with a clock showing different times and an evil-looking scammer lurking in the background. How to unmask a scammer.
Anoth­er Day For A Scam­mer


6:00 AM ‚ÄĒ Morn¬≠ing Rou¬≠tine

John wakes up ear¬≠ly, ready to start his day. His morn¬≠ing rou¬≠tine is sim¬≠i¬≠lar to any¬≠one else‚Äôs: a quick show¬≠er, break¬≠fast, and a glance at the news. But unlike most peo¬≠ple, John‚Äôs news sources include forums and chat rooms where scam¬≠mers share tips and strate¬≠gies. These online com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ties are gold¬≠mines of infor¬≠ma¬≠tion, offer¬≠ing insights into the lat¬≠est scams and vic¬≠tim pro¬≠files. After-all, most peo¬≠ple today, young and old, post their dai¬≠ly rou¬≠tines and activ¬≠i¬≠ties to social media. Quite sim¬≠ply, social media is a data¬≠base of poten¬≠tial vic¬≠tims for scam¬≠mers around the world. 

8:00 AM ‚ÄĒ Tar¬≠get Selec¬≠tion

With his cof­fee in hand, John sits down at his com­put­er and begins the process of select­ing tar­gets. He uses var­i­ous tools, includ­ing social media plat­forms and online direc­to­ries, to gath­er infor­ma­tion about poten­tial vic­tims. He looks for peo­ple who are like­ly to be vul­ner­a­ble: old­er adults, the lone­ly, and those who recent­ly expe­ri­enced finan­cial hard­ship.

John’s favorite tar­gets are those who over­share on social media. He can learn a lot from some­one’s Face­book pro­file: their inter­ests, recent activ­i­ties, even their rela­tion­ships. This infor­ma­tion helps him tai­lor his scams to make them more con­vinc­ing.

10:00 AM ‚ÄĒ Craft¬≠ing the Bait

Once John has a list of poten­tial tar­gets, he starts craft­ing his bait. This could be a phish­ing email, a fake social media pro­file, or a spoofed web­site. Atten­tion to detail is cru­cial. The email must look like it comes from a legit­i­mate source, the social media pro­file must appear gen­uine, and the web­site must be indis­tin­guish­able from the real thing.

For phish¬≠ing emails, John uses tem¬≠plates that mim¬≠ic those from banks, online retail¬≠ers, or pop¬≠u¬≠lar ser¬≠vices like Pay¬≠Pal. He per¬≠son¬≠al¬≠izes each email with the recip¬≠i¬≠en¬≠t‚Äôs name and oth¬≠er details to make it more con¬≠vinc¬≠ing. While he may have to send out hun¬≠dreds of phish¬≠ing emails to nab a vic¬≠tim, the wait is worth it for him. What else does he have to do? 

12:00 PM ‚ÄĒ Lunch Break

Even scam­mers need a break. John steps out for lunch, per­haps meet­ing up with fel­low scam­mers to share sto­ries and tips. They dis­cuss what’s work­ing, what’s not, and brain­storm new ideas. This col­lab­o­ra­tion is a key part of the scammer’s suc­cess. It is a well known fact that Inter­net cafes and bars in West Africa are com­mon hang-outs for scam­mers.

1:00 PM ‚ÄĒ Launch¬≠ing the Attack

After lunch, John returns to his com¬≠put¬≠er to launch his attack. He sends out hun¬≠dreds of phish¬≠ing emails, posts on social media, and directs traf¬≠fic to his fake web¬≠sites. Each mes¬≠sage is designed to cre¬≠ate a sense of urgency. Phras¬≠es like ‚ÄúYour account has been com¬≠pro¬≠mised‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúYou‚Äôve won a prize‚ÄĚ are com¬≠mon, as they prompt imme¬≠di¬≠ate action from the vic¬≠tim.

3:00 PM ‚ÄĒ Mon¬≠i¬≠tor¬≠ing Respons¬≠es

John close­ly mon­i­tors the respons­es to his scams. He uses soft­ware to track email opens, clicks on links, and vis­its to his fake web­sites. This allows him to see who is tak­ing the bait and tai­lor his approach accord­ing­ly.

When a vic­tim responds, John moves quick­ly. If some­one clicks on a phish­ing link, he col­lects their login cre­den­tials and oth­er per­son­al infor­ma­tion. If a vic­tim engages with a fake social media pro­file, he builds a rap­port, grad­u­al­ly gain­ing their trust.

5:00 PM ‚ÄĒ Cash¬≠ing In

By late after­noon, John has gath­ered enough infor­ma­tion from his vic­tims. He uses stolen cre­den­tials to make unau­tho­rized trans­ac­tions, open new accounts, or sell the infor­ma­tion on the dark web. The mon­ey flows in, often in small amounts to avoid detec­tion.

John also exploits his vic­tims’ trust. In romance scams, for exam­ple, he might con­vince a vic­tim to wire mon­ey or buy gift cards. The emo­tion­al manip­u­la­tion is intense, with Jack play­ing the role of a lov­ing part­ner in dis­tress.

7:00 PM ‚ÄĒ Cov¬≠er¬≠ing Tracks

Before wrap­ping up for the day, John takes steps to cov­er his tracks. He uses VPNs and oth­er tools to hide his IP address, deletes incrim­i­nat­ing files, and ensures his activ­i­ties can’t be traced back to him. This lev­el of cau­tion is nec­es­sary to avoid detec­tion by law enforce­ment. How­ev­er, John real­izes that his geo­graph­i­cal over­seas loca­tion will make it dif­fi­cult for U.S. law enforce­ment to iden­ti­fy and appre­hend him.

Scammer’s Toolkit

Illustration of a 'Scammers Toolkit' showing various tools commonly used by scammers, including fake IDs, a laptop with malicious software, a phone for scam calls, stacks of money, phishing emails on a screen, credit cards, and a disguise kit. The scene is set at a clandestine workstation with dim lighting and scattered papers and notes in the background, creating a dark and secretive atmosphere. Unmasking a scammer.
Scam­mer’s Toolk­it

Scam­mers like John rely on a vari­ety of tools and tech­niques to car­ry out their schemes. Here’s a clos­er look at some of their favorites:

  1. Spoof­ing: Scam­mers use tech­nol­o­gy to dis­guise their phone num­bers, mak­ing it appear as though they are call­ing from a legit­i­mate orga­ni­za­tion. This makes it eas­i­er to deceive vic­tims into pro­vid­ing per­son­al infor­ma­tion.
  2. Mal­ware: Mali­cious soft­ware can be used to steal infor­ma­tion, lock vic­tims out of their devices, or spy on their activ­i­ties. Phish­ing emails often con­tain mal­ware-laden attach­ments or links.
  3. Fake Web­sites: These are designed to look iden­ti­cal to legit­i­mate sites, trick­ing vic­tims into enter­ing their cre­den­tials. Scam­mers can then cap­ture this infor­ma­tion for fraud­u­lent use.
  4. Social Engi­neer­ing: This tech­nique involves manip­u­lat­ing peo­ple into divulging con­fi­den­tial infor­ma­tion. It can be as sim­ple as pre­tend­ing to be a trust­ed indi­vid­ual or cre­at­ing a sense of urgency.
  5. Data Har­vest­ing: Scam­mers scrape social media and oth­er online plat­forms for per­son­al infor­ma­tion that can be used in scams. This data helps them cre­ate more con­vinc­ing sto­ries and pro­files.


The Impact of Scams on Victims

The impact of scams on vic¬≠tims can be dev¬≠as¬≠tat¬≠ing. Finan¬≠cial loss is just the begin¬≠ning. Many vic¬≠tims expe¬≠ri¬≠ence emo¬≠tion¬≠al and psy¬≠cho¬≠log¬≠i¬≠cal dis¬≠tress, includ¬≠ing feel¬≠ings of shame, guilt, and anx¬≠i¬≠ety. Rela¬≠tion¬≠ships can be strained, and the stress of deal¬≠ing with the after¬≠math can take a toll on men¬≠tal health.‚ÄúScams leave more than just finan¬≠cial scars; they shat¬≠ter trust, erode con¬≠fi¬≠dence, and inflict deep emo¬≠tion¬≠al wounds. Pro¬≠tect¬≠ing our¬≠selves and our loved ones from scams isn‚Äôt just about safe¬≠guard¬≠ing our wallets‚ÄĒit‚Äôs about pre¬≠serv¬≠ing our peace of mind and dig¬≠ni¬≠ty.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄĒ Nick Hen¬≠ley, Founder of Stamp Out Scams

Real-Life Stories

Con­sid­er the sto­ry of Mary, an old­er adult who fell vic­tim to a lot­tery scam. She was told she had won a sig­nif­i­cant sum of mon­ey but need­ed to pay tax­es and fees upfront to claim her prize. Over sev­er­al months, Mary sent thou­sands of dol­lars to the scam­mers, drain­ing her sav­ings and leav­ing her in finan­cial ruin.

Then there’s John, who fell for a romance scam. He believed he had found love with a woman he met online. After months of build­ing a rela­tion­ship, she start­ed ask­ing for mon­ey to deal with var­i­ous emer­gen­cies. John sent her mon­ey repeat­ed­ly, only to real­ize too late that he had been deceived. The emo­tion­al pain was immense, and he strug­gled to trust oth­ers after­ward.

Obvi¬≠ous¬≠ly these a short and not-so-sweet quick sum¬≠maries of real scams. Unfor¬≠tu¬≠nate¬≠ly, they are a very, very, small sam¬≠ple of scams that occur EVERYDAY!  Scams that often seek out their favorite targets‚Ķthe vul¬≠ner¬≠a¬≠ble. Includ¬≠ed among this pop¬≠u¬≠la¬≠tion are old¬≠er adults, wid¬≠ows, wid¬≠ow¬≠ers, divorcees, mil¬≠len¬≠ni¬≠als, etc. Many of these scam vic¬≠tims were pre¬≠vi¬≠ous¬≠ly active on social media. After being scammed, many learned their lessons and left social media all togeth¬≠er.

How to Protect Yourself

A senior woman, an older man, a woman, and a 30-year-old man looking at a computer screen together, focused and concerned.
Safe­guard­ing them­selves from scams.

Blog posts such as Stamp Out Scams often include sug¬≠ges¬≠tions on how to pro¬≠tect your¬≠self. After awhile these sug¬≠ges¬≠tions may be some¬≠what cliched to read¬≠ers. How¬≠ev¬≠er, hav¬≠ing been involved in law enforce¬≠ment inves¬≠ti¬≠gat¬≠ing finan¬≠cial crimes, these sug¬≠ges¬≠tions are any¬≠thing but cliched. They should be tak¬≠en seri¬≠ous¬≠ly and used dai¬≠ly.  

I have inter¬≠viewed numer¬≠ous wit¬≠ness¬≠es who have said ‚ÄúI had no idea‚ÄĚ this type of thing hap¬≠pened. So don‚Äôt get caught-up in the ‚Äúno idea‚ÄĚ zone. Please fol¬≠low all rec¬≠om¬≠mend¬≠ed  tips you may see or hear to help pre¬≠vent being scammed. This type of dis¬≠ci¬≠pline will pay-off for you, not a scam¬≠mer.

Practical Tips To Avoid Being Scammed

Pro­tect­ing your­self from scams requires vig­i­lance and skep­ti­cism. So, here are some prac­ti­cal tips to help you stay safe:

  1. Be Skep­ti­cal of Unso­licit­ed Com­mu­ni­ca­tions: Whether it’s an email, phone call, or social media mes­sage, be cau­tious if you weren’t expect­ing it. Don’t click on links or pro­vide per­son­al infor­ma­tion with­out ver­i­fy­ing the source.
  2. Ver­i­fy Before You Trust: If you receive a sus­pi­cious mes­sage, con­tact the orga­ni­za­tion direct­ly using a known, offi­cial con­tact method. Don’t rely on infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed in the mes­sage.
  3. Edu­cate Your­self: Stay informed about com­mon scams and how they oper­ate. Knowl­edge is a pow­er­ful tool in pro­tect­ing your­self.
  4. Use Strong, Unique Pass­words: Avoid using the same pass­word for mul­ti­ple accounts. Use a pass­word man­ag­er to keep track of your pass­words and ensure they are strong and unique.
  5. Enable Two-Fac­tor Authen­ti­ca­tion: This adds an extra lay­er of secu­ri­ty to your accounts, mak­ing it hard­er for scam­mers to gain access even if they have your pass­word.
  6. Mon­i­tor Your Accounts: Reg­u­lar­ly check your bank and cred­it card state­ments for unau­tho­rized trans­ac­tions. Set up alerts to be noti­fied of sus­pi­cious activ­i­ty.
  7. Be Cau­tious with Per­son­al Infor­ma­tion: Lim­it the amount of per­son­al infor­ma­tion you share online. Scam­mers can use details from your social media pro­files to make their scams more con­vinc­ing.

Behind the Scenes: How Law Enforcement Tracks Scammers 

While scam­mers like John go to great lengths to avoid detec­tion, law enforce­ment agen­cies are con­stant­ly devel­op­ing new meth­ods to track and appre­hend them. Here’s a look at how author­i­ties work behind the scenes:

  1. Cyber Foren­sics: Spe­cial­ists ana­lyze dig­i­tal evi­dence to trace the ori­gins of scams. This includes exam­in­ing email head­ers, IP address­es, and oth­er dig­i­tal foot­prints.
  2. Col­lab­o­ra­tion: Law enforce­ment agen­cies often work togeth­er across juris­dic­tions to track down scam­mers. This col­lab­o­ra­tion is cru­cial in cas­es where scams span mul­ti­ple coun­tries.
  3. Under­cov­er Oper­a­tions: Inves­ti­ga­tors may go under­cov­er to infil­trate scam­mer net­works. This can pro­vide valu­able insights into their oper­a­tions and lead to arrests. Under­cov­er oper­a­tions are a fan­tas­tic tool to expose scam­mers and fraud­sters. That is why it is impor­tant to report scams. Law enforce­ment can use your infor­ma­tion to infil­trate scam­mer oper­a­tion using an under­cov­er oper­a­tion.
  4. Pub­lic Aware­ness Cam­paigns: Edu­cat­ing the pub­lic about scams is a key part of pre­ven­tion. Law enforce­ment agen­cies often run cam­paigns to raise aware­ness and pro­vide tips on how to avoid scams.

Helpful Links

A computer screen on a desk in a cozy living room displays a list of helpful website links for seniors, with icons representing security tips, educational resources, and hotlines. The top of the screen reads "Helpful Links".

If you need to report a scam, please vis¬≠it our ‚ÄúReport A Scam‚ÄĚ web¬≠site page.  On this page, you will find the var¬≠i¬≠ous agen¬≠cies you can report scams to with web¬≠site links.  It is rec¬≠om¬≠mend¬≠ed that you also report scams or attempt¬≠ed scams to your local police depart¬≠ment.  To iden¬≠ti¬≠fy your state or local report¬≠ing agency, vis¬≠it this excel¬≠lent Wikipedia guide to deter¬≠mine who and where you should report for your par¬≠tic¬≠u¬≠lar U.S. loca¬≠tion.

In addi¬≠tion, please vis¬≠it our ‚ÄúAbout Us‚ÄĚ page to learn more about our non-prof¬≠it scam pre¬≠ven¬≠tion orga¬≠ni¬≠za¬≠tion. Also, please vis¬≠it our YouTube Chan¬≠nel, ScamTV, for more scam-relat¬≠ed news and scam pre¬≠ven¬≠tion guid¬≠ance.

Stamp Out Scams is also excit¬≠ed to announce its new sep¬≠a¬≠rate web¬≠site for our YouTube Chan¬≠nel, ScamTV.  This web¬≠site can be found at  While this web¬≠site is new and still being devel¬≠oped, we have big future plans for this site. We hope to great¬≠ly expand our scam pre¬≠ven¬≠tion offer¬≠ings on our new ScamTV site in the very near future.  We want to be your trust¬≠ed source for ‚Äúmust-see‚ÄĚ scam pre¬≠ven¬≠tion pro¬≠gram¬≠ming.

Donate To Support Scam Prevention

A diverse group of people standing around a donation box labeled "Donate to Scam Prevention," placing money and checks into the box, with a community center background showing scam prevention posters.

We are a reg¬≠is¬≠tered non-prof¬≠it scam pre¬≠ven¬≠tion orga¬≠ni¬≠za¬≠tion.  Donat¬≠ing to Stamp Out Scams Inc. helps pro¬≠tect vul¬≠ner¬≠a¬≠ble indi¬≠vid¬≠u¬≠als from falling vic¬≠tim to deceit¬≠ful schemes. Your sup¬≠port enables us to edu¬≠cate the pub¬≠lic, raise aware¬≠ness, and pro¬≠vide cru¬≠cial resources to iden¬≠ti¬≠fy and pre¬≠vent scams. By con¬≠tribut¬≠ing, you play a vital role in safe¬≠guard¬≠ing com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ties and empow¬≠er¬≠ing peo¬≠ple with the knowl¬≠edge need¬≠ed to stay safe from fraud.

Join us in the fight against scams and make a last¬≠ing impact today. Please con¬≠sid¬≠er donat¬≠ing to our scam pre¬≠ven¬≠tion mis¬≠sion by vis¬≠it¬≠ing our Dona¬≠tions Page and con¬≠tribut¬≠ing what¬≠ev¬≠er you can.


By step­ping into the shoes of a scam­mer, we can gain a deep­er under­stand­ing of their tac­tics and bet­ter pro­tect our­selves from falling vic­tim to their schemes. Scam­mers like John are cun­ning and relent­less. How­ev­er, with knowl­edge and vig­i­lance, we can stay one step ahead of them.

Remem­ber, skep­ti­cism and ver­i­fi­ca­tion are your best defens­es against scams. Always be cau­tious with unso­licit­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions, pro­tect your per­son­al infor­ma­tion, and stay informed about the lat­est scam trends. Togeth­er, we can cre­ate a safer, scam-free world.

For more infor¬≠ma¬≠tion and resources on scam pre¬≠ven¬≠tion, vis¬≠it Stamp Out Scams on a reg¬≠u¬≠lar basis. We have a scam feed at the top of most every page on out web¬≠site. Like a stock tick¬≠er, these scam feeds dis¬≠play the most cur¬≠rent scam data.

Stay safe and stay vig­i­lant!

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