Update: In the time since this article was published, Jim Browning was thankfully able to recover his account with the help of YouTube, and he posted a video explaining how he was scammed.
Scam Lesson Courtesy of Jim Browning
In the long-tail of the internet, there is a small community of scam baiters. Instead of deleting scam emails or closing scam pop-ups, scam baiters engage the scammers with the intent to waste their time, often in hilarious fashion, or even to go on offense and hack the scammers to delete their files.
One of the most prominent of this community is someone who goes by the name Jim Browning. Browning is known for making YouTube videos wherein he goes on offense and interrupts scammer activity. He is incredibly talented and knows more about internet scams than anyone you will ever meet.
In an elephant tranquilizer-sized dose of irony, Browning himself was scammed. He was convinced by a scammer to delete his YouTube channel. Yes, that’s correct, one of the foremost authorities in online scamming was scammed online. Browning received a message he believed was from YouTube indicating that he had duplicate YouTube accounts, and that he had to delete the duplicate account in the YouTube interface otherwise YouTube would permanently suspend his channel. Through a series of discussions, he was convinced that he was talking to YouTube Creator Support and he deleted his own account.
Although Browning is working with YouTube to restore the channel, as of the time of publication, his channel has been replaced by a handful of family videos published by someone of the same name, from up to a decade ago.
Jim Browning’s YouTube Channel as of July 29, 2021
Browning posted a message to Twitter echoing what I’ve been preaching for years when I deliver Security Awareness Training to clients. Anyone can be fooled.
How was Jim Browning, such a highly-skilled and intelligent person, beaten at his own game?
In a memorable scene from The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth discuss The Joker’s motivations.
Wayne: Criminals aren’t complicated, Alfred. We just need to figure out what he’s after.
Pennyworth: With respect, Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man you don’t fully understand.
A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of the tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So, we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anyone who traded with him.
One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.
Wayne: So why steal them?
Pennyworth: Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
My theory is that Browning had a blind spot. He was so attuned to dealing with scammers that scam people for profit that he momentarily forgot that some people want to cause harm for the sake of it.
The lesson, if it isn’t obvious, is that anyone can be scammed. Nobody is too smart to fall for a scam. Not me, not you, and not Jim Browning.
Related Security Awareness Service Offering
Keiter offers in-person Security Awareness Training to our clients in the Richmond-area. Unlike computer-based Security Awareness Training, our in-person training is interactive with attendees asking questions and engaging in discussion the entire time. Our clients appreciate the in-person training because it is effective at informing staff of the risks and motivating them to keep their internal scam detectors up. If you would like training at your facility, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to your Keiter Opportunity Advisor.
About the Author
The information contained within this article is provided for informational purposes only and is current as of the date published. Online readers are advised not to act upon this information without seeking the service of a professional accountant, as this article is not a substitute for obtaining accounting, tax, or financial advice from a professional accountant.