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Author Topic: Independent scam investigations  (Read 4091 times)
theymos
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July 01, 2012, 02:15:37 AM
 #1

I don't ever want there to be innocent people falsely marked as scammers, so I require quite a bit of proof before scammer-tagging anyone. Sometimes there are very clear-cut cases that don't require any additional proof, but often some investigation is required to collect more proof. Maged has been doing a lot of this investigation work (thanks!), but I don't consider investigating these cases to be a function of the board. I don't expect moderators to spend any time investigating scam cases.

Now Maged is busy, and people seeking to have someone scammer-tagged are finding that all of the moderators are ignoring them. What such people should do is hire a non-moderator to collect the evidence. Moderators have no advantage in these investigations over non-moderators, since only admins have IP logs, access to PMs, etc.

Scam investigators need to convince me that someone is almost certainly a scammer. This is done by:
- Finding conclusive evidence that the suspect has scammed someone.
- Compiling all of the evidence into a short report (not strewn across a huge thread).
- Posting all of the evidence in a new thread in "Trading discussion".
- After at least a few days of public discussion, send me the link to the thread with the evidence.

If you think I might have evidence that would prove that someone is guilty (PMs, IP logs, etc.), compile the evidence you do have to show "probable cause" and ask me specific questions that will clearly help the case when answered. I will not actually give you IP addresses or PMs -- I check them myself and give you answers based on the info.

I might be willing to give some free forum advertising to a reputable person/company specializing in scam investigations.

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July 01, 2012, 02:19:17 AM
 #2

Bitcoin Police Smiley

theymos
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July 01, 2012, 02:23:18 AM
 #3

i remember you gave me ip addresses for previous scammers

That's after they were already proven to be scammers. I won't do it during an investigation.

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July 01, 2012, 05:14:20 AM
 #4

If anyone wants me to investigate a case free of charge, I will do so. I have methods independent of the moderators for finding pertinent information. I will NEVER work with the moderators or admins on your behalf, though. I tried that once and theymos was an asshole about it. All I will do is give you evidence and you can present it to the moderators on your own.

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July 01, 2012, 05:37:30 AM
 #5

I tried that once and theymos was an asshole about it.

I've only ever sent you two scam-related sentences via PM, so I don't know how you got that impression.

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July 01, 2012, 05:44:05 AM
 #6

Don't take it personally, I just wanted to try something unconventional (that would prove bulanula was an outright troll and punish him accordingly) that required both you AND bulanula to agree to it and you dismissed it outright, without even considering if he would agree to it. I do consider that kind of an asshole thing to do.

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July 01, 2012, 05:45:50 AM
 #7

LOL bulanula is a troll? Really? I never got this memo LOL

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July 01, 2012, 05:47:47 AM
 #8

Calling out a mod an asshole is some inconsiderate of you. Do you understand what theymos does for the bitcoin community?

gtfo, Raize.
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July 01, 2012, 05:53:52 AM
 #9

Calling out an admin an asshole is some inconsiderate of you. Do you understand what theymos does for the bitcoin community?

gtfo, Raize.
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July 01, 2012, 05:58:58 AM
 #10

Here's the full story for those interested:
bulanula owes 22.5 BTC.

He wanted me to post an address to pay to, but had no intention of paying:
https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=78386.msg903383#msg903383
https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=78386.msg902207#msg902207

Others even knew he had no intention of paying:
https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=78386.msg902289#msg902289

He feigns intent to pay:
https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=78386.msg904518#msg904518

He then says I'm trying to make him pay more than he owes:
https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=78386.msg904548#msg904548

I start getting multiple PMs about this while I'm still trying to get bulanula's account at BTC-E restored, I see he's making things up now, so I debate over what to do here. It's obvious if I post an address publicly he's just going to continue to troll the thread/forums, so I ask if the mods are okay with me posting the address on the condition that if he DOES NOT pay he gets banned. Here's the text of what I sent:

Quote
Bulanula has insisted on not handling the debt via PM.

I will post a public address in his "Unjust scammer tag" thread on the condition that I get final closure on this issue. If I post a public address and bulanula has not posted the 22.5 BTC to that address within 5 days, he gets banned indefinitely from the forums and any time any new account can be proven to be him again he gets rebanned.

If both bulanula and theymos agree to such terms, I'll post an address publicly.

You'll note I said both theymos AND bulanula should agree to these terms. But theymos rejects it outright:

I don't agree. I won't ban him unless he breaks forum rules.

I've since posted the address publicly anyway:
https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=78386.msg972246#msg972246

So yes. I do think he's an ass. He's a good forum admin, but still an ass. Tongue

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July 01, 2012, 06:11:52 AM
 #11

Calling out an admin an asshole is some inconsiderate of you. Do you understand what theymos does for the bitcoin community?

gtfo, Raize.


Doh, my bad, I was in a middle of things at the time of the moment.

My apologies, theymos. Smiley
BadBear
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July 01, 2012, 06:43:08 AM
 #12

We definitely are having issues with scammer cases at the moment. There's several that need to be looked into, that can't be determined just from reading a thread or two. Maged was the only mod really doing them, now that he's not there's nobody doing it. It's a lot of time and effort to ask someone to do for free. It might be a decent business idea. Insurance/collection agency type thing, where if you pass certain standards when performing a trade (getting enough info/using escrow/whatever) then they will guarantee to buy your debt for a percentage fee and collect themselves/pursue scammer tag. If appropriate precautions are taken a scammer tag should be a certainty in the majority of cases.  


And that's not theymos being an ass, he's always been short and to the point. It helps if you think of him as a robot. An anarchist robot.  Wink

And yeah bans for scammers ain't gonna happen, don't even ask. Besides, banning them would just ensure they'll never pay their debts.

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Raize
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July 01, 2012, 07:13:54 AM
 #13

And yeah bans for scammers ain't gonna happen, don't even ask. Besides, banning them would just ensure they'll never pay their debts.

That wouldn't be a concern of mine, to be quite frank. Once I've determined someone is bad for the Bitcoin community, repayment of debt is the least of my concerns. The method I proposed would have ensured that if the party in question was of any benefit to the community, they would have made the correct decision, and I was denied that opportunity. Plus it would have been done publicly and with both parties acceptance, so no one would have had reason to question the result. But bulanula wasn't going to agree anyway unless the troll in him cared more about the attention than the repayment. You can bet your wallet that now that I've posted in this thread he will too. Now he's your guys' problem, though, I have him on ignore.

If you have cases you want me to look into I don't mind doing so. I understand the work would be overwhelming, but I still wouldn't accept anything for doing so. I have a full time job so I can't do it all day, but given enough individuals willing to look into individual accounts for free, we might be able to handle it. I have to imagine that there are enough people interested in seeing the Bitcoin community grow that they'd be willing to take on the challenge without compensation.

I do liked Maged, though, is something preventing him from doing this anymore? Or has it just been too much work?

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Maged
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July 01, 2012, 07:01:04 PM
 #14

I do liked Maged, though, is something preventing him from doing this anymore? Or has it just been too much work?
If you look at any of my posts from the past week, you'll notice two things:
1) There's fewer of them.
2) They're posted at very strange times for someone who lives in the US...

Well, the reason for that is that I'm actually not in the US right now  Grin. For the next several weeks, I'll be based out of Norway!

For the first week, here, I didn't take any new scam reports because I was jet-lagged and I wanted to go exploring. However, I'm once again accepting a limited number of scam reports (in fact, I'm about to process one that was in my queue right now!). I don't know entirely how much time I will have, nor when, so I'll still hold back on accepting too many.

If anybody wants to learn how to process a scam report, contact me with one that you're willing to do and I'll walk you through the process. Theymos basically told you what's needed here, but there are a few subtle things that I'd prefer not to reveal publicly that if scammers knew about, could prolong an investigation for months (see: Shakaru). Be warned: the average scam report that I process ends up taking about 1 hour total between gathering background information and communicating with the various parties. More obvious stuff takes just a few minutes, but the harder stuff takes several hours.

Edit: I'll reveal one important tip here: When you are processing a scammer case, always view things from the accused point of view and then try to prove that the hypothetical argument that the scammer could make is false. Do this before you even contact them, since there's no reason to harass someone when there wasn't a good case against them anyway. (So if I ever contact you about a scam, you should know that things must be pretty bad for you...)

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July 01, 2012, 07:44:24 PM
 #15

I do liked Maged, though, is something preventing him from doing this anymore? Or has it just been too much work?
If you look at any of my posts from the past week, you'll notice two things:
1) There's fewer of them.
2) They're posted at very strange times for someone who lives in the US...

Well, the reason for that is that I'm actually not in the US right now  Grin. For the next several weeks, I'll be based out of Norway!

For the first week, here, I didn't take any new scam reports because I was jet-lagged and I wanted to go exploring. However, I'm once again accepting a limited number of scam reports (in fact, I'm about to process one that was in my queue right now!). I don't know entirely how much time I will have, nor when, so I'll still hold back on accepting too many.

If anybody wants to learn how to process a scam report, contact me with one that you're willing to do and I'll walk you through the process. Theymos basically told you what's needed here, but there are a few subtle things that I'd prefer not to reveal publicly that if scammers knew about, could prolong an investigation for months (see: Shakaru). Be warned: the average scam report that I process ends up taking about 1 hour total between gathering background information and communicating with the various parties. More obvious stuff takes just a few minutes, but the harder stuff takes several hours.

Edit: I'll reveal one important tip here: When you are processing a scammer case, always view things from the accused point of view and then try to prove that the hypothetical argument that the scammer could make is false. Do this before you even contact them, since there's no reason to harass someone when there wasn't a good case against them anyway. (So if I ever contact you about a scam, you should know that things must be pretty bad for you...)

It's wonderful that you're willing to do the work to follow up on these scammer accusations, Maged, but I'm thinking that a dedicated group of scammer investigators is a good idea for the community. It's doubtful that anyone would pay just for corroboration after they've already lost money but I do believe there's a way to get at least some recompense for the work involved in compiling the necessary evidence.

Here's my idea:

Set up a website to outline what exactly we do (compiling evidence solely for the purpose of confirming that a scam has been perpetrated by a specific user). I'll put up a donation address, some ads, and maybe do an occasional fundraiser, as well.

Each investigator will be in a rotating schedule for new investigations but may turn down any job for any reason.

Upon completion of an investigation, all pertinent information will be posted at the bitcointalk forums in a dedicated thread and I'll point theymos to it so that he may make a decision about tagging the accused as a scammer.

At the end of each month, all proceeds (minus the cost of hosting) will be divided among investigators based on the number of their completed investigations during that month. For example, if there are three participating investigators and Investigators #1 and #2 complete two jobs each and Investigator #3 completes one job, then #1 and #2 each get 40% of the proceeds and #3 gets 20%.

This is all just off the top of my head so any comments or suggestions are welcome.

Still around.
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July 01, 2012, 08:08:03 PM
 #16

Set up a website to outline what exactly we do (compiling evidence solely for the purpose of confirming that a scam has been perpetrated by a specific user). I'll put up a donation address, some ads, and maybe do an occasional fundraiser, as well.

Each investigator will be in a rotating schedule for new investigations but may turn down any job for any reason.

Upon completion of an investigation, all pertinent information will be posted at the bitcointalk forums in a dedicated thread and I'll point theymos to it so that he may make a decision about tagging the accused as a scammer.

At the end of each month, all proceeds (minus the cost of hosting) will be divided among investigators based on the number of their completed investigations during that month. For example, if there are three participating investigators and Investigators #1 and #2 complete two jobs each and Investigator #3 completes one job, then #1 and #2 each get 40% of the proceeds and #3 gets 20%.

This is all just off the top of my head so any comments or suggestions are welcome.
I like it! The reality is, the person who was scammed already knows that the person was a scammer, so they don't need our services. Rather, it's the community that needs to know about a scam. Thus, it should be paid for by the community. The community has paid me for scammer investigations in the past, so donations (as you suggest) should hopefully be enough to sustain the group.

As for dividing the money, there is the problem that many investigations are extremely easy, and some are absurdly hard. I don't know what we'd do about that. It might just work out fine depending on the people in the group, but I could see it falling apart if some people only take the easy stuff.

Also, all of our information doesn't need to be posted publicly, nor should it. Not even the reports to theymos. Too much private information is contained in those communications to release publicly. I'm all for the information being released to the rest of the group, though. Of course, if either party in an investigation wants to go public, that is on them.

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July 01, 2012, 08:30:16 PM
 #17

Also, all of our information doesn't need to be posted publicly, nor should it. Not even the reports to theymos. Too much private information is contained in those communications to release publicly. I'm all for the information being released to the rest of the group, though. Of course, if either party in an investigation wants to go public, that is on them.

Sounds reasonable but theymos was the one requesting a thread containing all the evidence.

Scam investigators need to convince me that someone is almost certainly a scammer. This is done by:
- Finding conclusive evidence that the suspect has scammed someone.
- Compiling all of the evidence into a short report (not strewn across a huge thread).
- Posting all of the evidence in a new thread in "Trading discussion".
- After at least a few days of public discussion, send me the link to the thread with the evidence.


Still around.
edd
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July 01, 2012, 08:47:27 PM
 #18

As for dividing the money, there is the problem that many investigations are extremely easy, and some are absurdly hard. I don't know what we'd do about that. It might just work out fine depending on the people in the group, but I could see it falling apart if some people only take the easy stuff.

That will be tricky. This should be on a strictly volunteer basis but you're right that one job may require much more work than another.

The only way that I see would be to have everyone fill out some sort of spreadsheet detailing the work done and the time it took. I'd hate to have to break it down too much, however. Maybe jobs could be classified as Easy, Average, and Difficult with relevant pay rates.

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July 03, 2012, 03:20:04 AM
 #19

We definitely are having issues with scammer cases at the moment. There's several that need to be looked into, that can't be determined just from reading a thread or two. Maged was the only mod really doing them, now that he's not there's nobody doing it. It's a lot of time and effort to ask someone to do for free. It might be a decent business idea. Insurance/collection agency type thing, where if you pass certain standards when performing a trade (getting enough info/using escrow/whatever) then they will guarantee to buy your debt for a percentage fee and collect themselves/pursue scammer tag. If appropriate precautions are taken a scammer tag should be a certainty in the majority of cases.  

And that's not theymos being an ass, he's always been short and to the point. It helps if you think of him as a robot. An anarchist robot.  Wink

And yeah bans for scammers ain't gonna happen, don't even ask. Besides, banning them would just ensure they'll never pay their debts.

That surely explains the tone of PM's I got from him months ago. I took it personally, but let it pass. Thanks for bringing that to my attention, BadBear. I have great respect for theymos, and all the ribbing I do at his expense is just that--ribbing/joking.

~Bruno~
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July 03, 2012, 04:32:03 AM
 #20

Theymos is short, to the point and most importantly, fast. Most efficient admin of a site ever.

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