The popular tech-support-scam YouTube channel under the alias Jim Browning suffered an embarrassing shutdown by none other than its author. In a twist of irony, a scammer was able to dupe the channel’s owner into deleting his own work.
Browning (not his real name) owns and monetizes a YouTube channel showing how he tracks down tech-support scammers. He doesn’t go for the one-offs, but rather the organized business type – full-fledged call centers.
“This is usually those 'tech support' call frauds using phone calls or pop-ups,” he says. “I explain what I do by guiding others in how recognise a scam and, more importantly how to turn the tables on scammers by tracking them down.”
Met his match
As it turned out, a scammer caught Browning off guard last week and tricked him into deleting his own channel by saying he stood to lose his AdSense revenue due to a duplicate channel.
The scammer impersonated YouTube Support and persuaded Browning through email and chat messages to create a new channel and delete his original one. The scammer claimed it was the only way to eliminate the duplicate. Browning unfortunately fell for it.
"“If you're on the ball, you'll have noticed that my YouTube channel has been deleted,” Browning wrote on his Patreon page following the incident.
“It's the result of a scam .... Yes I fell for it. It only goes to prove that if you get the circumstances just right, ANYONE can fall for a scam. I am hoping that YouTube Support can recover the situation by 29th July and I can get the channel back, but they've not promised anything as yet. I just hope it is recoverable.”
He also notified his Twitter following of the incident:
It wasn’t until he was faced with having to complete a form that he realized he might be on the receiving end of a scam. When he eventually did catch on, he had already deleted his channel – seven years of hard investigative work, hundreds of tech-support scam videos, and around 3.3 million subscribers.
Browning quickly contacted the real YouTube to mend the situation while continuing to talk to his aggressor in an attempt to learn more about him. Which he did, through the help of grabify and some flattering words meant to get the scammer to open up.
YouTube eventually fixed Browning’s mess and restored his channel to its original form. Existing subscribers might need to re-subscribe, though, as Browning mentions in a recent video covering the embarrassing incident.
Browning himself admits he missed quite a few warning signs during his initial interaction with the scammer, plus he forgot to follow his own advice: ask more questions, check and double check the information at hand, and take more time to handle the situation. Watch the embedded video below for the full ironic scoop.
According to the FBI, although pandemic lockdowns caused a brief slowdown to tech-support fraud activity, victims still reported an increased incidence rate and losses to match. Last year, the FBI's Internet Crime Center (IC3) received 15,421 complaints related to tech support scams from victims in 60 countries. The losses amounted to over $146 million - a 171 percent increase in losses from 2019. At least 66 percent of victims report to be over 60 years of age and experience at least 84 percent of the losses (over $116 million).