Enlarge /. Kitboga is getting ready to get some scammers out on Twitch.
Earlier this week, live on Twitch, the streamer Kitboga tried to place a wholesale order for an essential oil that, as the woman had indicated on the phone, cured COVID-19.
There is, of course, no cure for COVID-19, the disease that has infected hundreds of thousands of people internationally since January. If this were the case, it would not consist of oregano oil, cinnamon, clove buds and eucalyptus essential oils. Kitboga phoned an imposter. Eleven thousand live viewers watched him unmask them.
With a speech modulator, Kitboga accepted a person named Barbara "Barbie" Kendal and said he wanted to place a wholesale order for essential oils and distribute them to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Kitboga kept pushing her to find out details about the product – how many people did it heal? Can I keep the healing on the worktop? Can I pour the healing into a hot bath after playing bridges? – which she readily replied without changing his terminology. The fraudster who said her name was Anne wrote down the address of the hospital.
"You should call yourself Saint Anne," said Kitboga, dropping the words into the sound of "Satan."
It is difficult for you to find someone who interacts with scammers more often than Kitboga. Kitboga goes live several times a week on Twitch, where an average of 7,000 viewers watch him mercilessly as he tells old women in nursing homes that they owe the IRS thousands of dollars – and get their MasterCard number. Under the guise of grandma Edna or valley girl Navaeh, Kitboga could have a fraudster who claims to be a seller of antivirus software installed, ransomware installed on a computer, or explained ad nauseum how Bitcoin is transferred to India. Kitboga interweaves absurd tales from these interactions and frustrates as much time as possible before the big revelation: he's not Barbie, Edna or Navaeh, and he thinks these people are bastards.
"You are a liar and a thief. You should be locked up, ”he said earlier this week to a COVID-19 fraudster. The audience spammed happy alarm bells into the accompanying chat of his stream.
Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission released a notice of new robocalls referring to coronavirus fraud and online offerings for coronavirus treatments and home test kits. Noting that "currently no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges, or other prescription or non-prescription products to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are available online or in stores," the FTC warned consumers must be on high alert for fraudsters. In recent months, digital marketplaces like Amazon have had trouble removing false quotes for miracle nasal sprays and dog test kits.
To date, the FTC has sent strict letters to at least seven sellers of products that claim to treat or prevent COVID-19, including N-Ergetics, GuruNanda LLC and Herbal Amy LLC. The New York attorney general sent an injunction against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones after saying that his toothpaste could be a coronavirus stopgate. Bonnie Patten, managing director of the nonprofit guard dog Truth In Advertising, says that a large number of scams have occurred around COVID-19, especially in the massive supplement industry. "The FDA has made it pretty clear that it will use its limited resources to find companies that misleadingly market dietary supplements with disease treatment or certain health claims," says Patten. To prevent web crawlers from looking for keywords, snake oil companies imply that they can help fight this virus without getting it right away.
A few days ago, Kitboga, who keeps his identity and location secret in real life, searched Google for corona virus fraud. The search resulted in an article titled "Fox News" – but not on a Fox News website – that reads, "While the world is waiting for a vaccine, a mother has found a solution to fight the coronavirus outbreak. " While the Byline called an actual Fox News editor, the article was fake. A product called Immunity Blend was advertised that promised to "distribute benefits to entire households" and "to protect against environmental threats". The fake article says, "Even if you become infected with a virus, the symptoms and time that affect your (sic) experience are greatly reduced."
The mother in the ad said, "I am not worried that the coronavirus will affect our family because I have three options to fight back with just one bottle of vegetable oil."
The preparation contains eucalyptus oil, which the advertisement claims has been shown to be "effective" against swine flu and herpes type 1. "Could it also kill the Corona Virus 2020?" It asks. The website contains a link to an order form, under which a warning blasts in red: "Due to global outbreaks and pandemics, demand is high and the supply for our high-performance immunity mix is limited." The website and the Facebook page, which will be on March 16 created are still active.
Enlarge /. Kitboga's twitch page.
To investigate, Kitboga called a phone number on the ad. "I said my boyfriend coughed up blood and I don't have the money to go to the doctor," Kitboga told Wired. He had attracted his valley girl personality. The woman on the line told him that the immunity mix would save the friend, Kitboga says. He hung up in shock. "I didn't expect them to be so open about it." The company behind Immunity Blend did not respond to Wired's request for comment.
The next day Kitboga called the number again. "I saw the Fox article about how there was a mother who found a solution to the coronavirus," Kitboga said in an older man's voice. "Yes," the customer service representative confirmed.
"You have to give it to her. She's probably very smart. There are scientists all over the world trying to find out. Fortunately, she did," Kitboga said in the stream, raising an eyebrow at his viewers. "I hope only that she will tell the government at some point. Do you have any of that healing available? "
"Yes, sir, we have it. However, we have a limited inventory, ”said the customer service representative. The price was $ 40 a bottle; They only sold 5-packs.
On a third call, this time with another representative, Kitboga asked if the oil was a vaccine and the agent finally corrected him: "It is an essential oil that protects you and your immune system." Even so, the spokesman said, he and his father had used it with good results.
In his live stream calls to scammers, Kitboga tries to stay calm and collected, and continues to collect as much information as possible. For the past three years, he has dealt with fraudsters trying to squeeze thousands of dollars from old women under the false threat of being arrested or detained. (In fact, he came into this industry after a fraudster took advantage of his real grandmother, who suffered from dementia.) This wave of COVID-19 snake oil feels different.
"I think a lot of the scams have been based on fear and insecurity so far," Kitboga says. "I'm not a psychologist, but I can imagine that you're less likely to make rational decisions when you're scared. Obviously, there is a lot of fear right now. When the scammers I talk to say things like," Ma & # 39; am if you don't return my money to me go to jail "or" i'm calling the police "try to say you in this fearful, uncertain situation. In this case we are already in this situation. The fraudsters are one step ahead. "
Kitboga says the next scam to watch out for is telemarketers pretending to be government officials. People who do not know better may give their bank account information to a so-called government official who offers to unload a non-binding check for $ 1,200 for government aid. He plans to expose her on his Twitch channel if he picks her up.
“When I heard about the attraction, I started to think, 'There will be cheaters. Someone will call and say, "We are the government trying to give you $ 1,000 or $ 2,000 and you have to pay us money."
This story originally appeared on wired.com.