I decided to re-open my WordPress site since 140 characters on Twitter isn’t nearly enough to say some things. I get a lot of people asking me where new videos are since I haven’t produced very many videos in the last month. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to talk about it much but now I can give you a little more information. I have a been a target by a few people that are using social engineering to convince companies that they are me, or affiliated with me to obtain products to review. Some of these people have literally contacted hundreds of companies with this scam and for the most part the companies are smart enough to get my real email address and contact me to confirm.
Well it started off with just a few emails a day and I would respond letting these companies know that it was someone trying to commit fraud and to ignore them. Well as time went by and I received more and more of these requests it became more problematic. This is because I have to respond to each one of these emails to explain to the company what is going on otherwise I risk them sending out product samples to the scammer and then expecting me to do a product review. If I don’t do the product review it defeats the purpose of them using there marketing budget to send me anything to review so you can see the problem here.
For those of you that don’t understand how the whole YouTube thing works we’re not all millionaires that can afford every gadget under the son, the majority of what you see in our unboxing and technology reviews are product samples sent to us by companies in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. But they do expect to get that review because that exposure of there product is what makes it worth while for them to provide the product at a reduced or no-cost. I know your heart is probably broken now since you probably just assumed I was basically Bill Gates and could afford tons of drones, 3D printers and electric sports cars, etc…
Well the mails at first were just an inconvenience but after a while their were so many of them that between going back and forth with the companies to get more information on the scammers and working my own investigation to track the scammer down I had no time to make any new videos. The mail stream was literally solid coming into my mailbox all day and my ADHD wouldn’t allow me to tune it off so I was basically just responding to email my entire day and night!
Well things took a turn for the worst, about a month ago I started receiving urgent mails from companies wonder where the product reviews were? These were the companies that actually did send out products to the scammer without finding me and consulting me first thinking everything looked legit. I had thought that responding to all the companies that messaged me would have taken care of the problem but I was dead wrong. A ton of companies (over 40 so far verified) actually sent out products to one of the scammers who was very convincing using social engineering tactics to convince the company and even sending fake email headers routed through insecure SMTP servers to simulate mails coming from my domain saying explicitly not to respond because it’s an outgoing only mail box (real clever). Unfortunately the companies involved didn’t have experience with a scammer of this caliber and ultimately sent stuff to him without me ever having any knowledge of it.
Now I start getting emails from these companies asking me when I will have the review up? If they can Skype me to talk about the review schedule? And even in some cases the company asking when they will get the item back because it was an expensive prototype, etc. I was completely shocked by this and it caught me off-guard, when I told these companies they were scammed they immediately worked with me to gather more information on the scammer without his knowledge and I opened a case with my local police department and the Internet Crimes division (IC3). I’ve spent literally the last 2 weeks non-stop investigating this scammer because of the massive damage he was causing to my reputation and YouTube channel by consuming all of my time. I had to respond to every single mail and every single reply to every single mail for weeks after this happened just to show the companies that I wasn’t the one scamming them and to work with them to gain more information on the scammer.
Well finally after this going on for months I’ve gathered enough information on the person scamming me and the other companies involved so I could pursue proper legal action. Shortly after I had tweeted out that I had the home phone # of the person that was doing this to me I get an email from the scammer. He said that he felt bad about what he did (after 3 months) and wanted to try and make things right since he is going off to college in a year and doesn’t want a criminal record. He even tried to say he was my biggest fan and loved my videos and the only reason he did this is because he wanted to make videos like I did. I asked him a series of questions including how many companies he contacted and how many items he had received and he said he lost track and didn’t have a number. I also asked him why he hasn’t posted any reviews of the products he has stolen impersonating me and he said he didn’t post any reviews on the items because he felt bad about stealing them so he never did anything with them (this made me very suspect). I told him if he mailed back all the stolen items to the companies with a letter explaining what he did I would consider working this out with his parents to undo the damages and he agreed with reservations saying he didn’t want his name known and he didn’t want the police contacted. It seemed like this were going well and he really did want to make things right. Boy, my wife says I’m gullible but this one took the cake as you will soon find out.
As my investigation continues while I’m going back and forth with him and his father on email I end up finding out that the guy has been heavily active in social engineering forums and even found posts where he was bragging about stealing the products while even mentioning my channel by name (I verified it was linked to this scammer and not the other 3 that just tried) and talking about the product and model that I confirmed he had. Then I dug a little deeper and even traced the majority of the products he stole back to eBay where he was selling them! Never opened, new in package! Most of the items already did sell over the last 2 months but he didn’t mention this in the email claiming he still had them. I can’t post any descriptive information at this time but it will all come out in my video once formal charges are brought against him. He also did attempt to send back some of the things after I caught him but instead of sending a letter to the company saying what he had done and claiming he wasn’t associated with me which we agreed to in the email, he just told them that “Something came up, I can’t review the item I am sorry so I’m returning it to you. What is your address?” still implying that he was affiliated with me and hoping the company would just drop it and not bother contacting me. This guy was actually a really good liar and I was really buying his story in the beginning but after researching I figured out everything that came out of his mouth was a lie. He even lied about his old YouTube channel being shut down because he put a song in a video but I found an old posts in a forum to prove that the channel was actually shut down because he was using a view/like/sub bot and TOR to generate traffic to his YouTube channel to steal money from Google Adsense. He also had several posts on exploiting flaws in websites to obtain products for free and even hacking Bing Rewards to get free gift cards, etc. The guy is absolutely out of control and would say one thing to me and act like he was completely genuine and then go and do another completely different thing hoping I wouldn’t find out. His father tried to plead with me to handle this quietly between him and I since his son was a 4.0 GPA and a great kid. It’s one thing to make a mistake and want to fix it, it’s another thing entirely to lie your ass off to get out of punishment when you did something repeatedly with multiple warnings to stop.
At this point I’ve broken off all communication with the criminal and I’m now working with the corporations, shippers and his local law enforcement to ensure that he is brought up on formal charges and all of the evidence I’ve collected over the last few months make it into every case opened against him to prove his guilt. This is what has been consuming so much of time and preventing me from making videos. I recently even had to go to the doctor because my depression was at an all time high and he put me on something called Welbutrin which honestly isn’t doing much yet because it’s a very slow acting drug but we hope it will help with some of the anxiety and depression. Normally things don’t bug me this bad, they really don’t and I can normally just ignore them but this person reminded me of what some people are capable of and how life is just game to them and they don’t care about anybody else but themselves. It reminded me that someone like this deserves what they get regardless of how it affects their future because that is the only way they will really learn. He also tried to tell me in the email that he didn’t have any money to buy anything because he was poor and that is why he had to steal products from companies. Turns out the guy lives with his parents in a $700,000 home with an in ground swimming pool, has a day job and runs his own aerial photography business on the side using stolen quad copters or equipment purchased with stolen money. And if that isn’t all bad enough he also had the tenacity to leave his current listings up on eBay for items he was still selling while this was all going on because he was sure I wouldn’t find his eBay activities (oops, bad mistake).
I will eventually do a video on the whole experience once we’re further along with legal action but I feel great right now knowing that the hundreds of hours, stress, sleepless nights and constant battle to protect my image has ended in finally getting some forward traction and being able to make this person pay for what they have done and I will fly anywhere and attend any hearing if required to testify against him if it means a stiffer punishment. A lot of people think that taking product samples from companies is a victim-less crime. Well I’m here to tell you it absolutely isn’t, each one of those lies the scammer told to obtain something for free also set an expectation for that company and put a responsibility on the person they pinned it on (me). It’s really not worth it, especially since this person who was smart enough to fool some companies because he did his criminal homework. He used anonymous methods of communication, he used re-shippers and drop-shippers to redirect packages. But in the end at some point you have to receive the package in your hands which means there is always going to be a trail back to you. And in this case it took some investigation, time and resources but I was able to track the person down and now I’m in the home stretch to make sure he never does something like this again and hopefully will serve as example to others not to do this.
Thanks for reading! This is my first blog post I’ve done in literally years and it feels good, more videos are coming soon now that things will hopefully start to slow down and get back to normal. It hard to be happy and generate entertaining content when every day your fighting to maintain your reputation and fight fraud against you! I’m just glad that all my research, statements to the police, case updates and massive correspondence when a huge number of companies is finally paying off.
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