Fraudsters Rely on Forums for Maximum Success

Fraudsters Rely on Forums for Maximum Success

May 22, 2019

Former fraudster turned fraud fighter Brett Johnson, founder and CEO of, shared the story of his criminal exploits with attendees at today’s CNP Expo in San Francisco. His life of crime began when he was 10 years old and culminated in the U.S. Secret Service dubbing him, “The Original Internet Godfather.”

After scamming a woman out of $1,500 in a fraudulent online sale, Johnson said, “The first lesson in cyber-crime that I ever learned was that if you delay a victim long enough, they get so exasperated, they walk away. Very few ever report anything to law enforcement.”

In 2004, Johnson himself was scammed by a fraudster, which gave birth to Shadowcrew, a communication forum that helped criminals confirm the “trustworthiness” of their peers, all of whom are motivated by either status, cash or ideology Johnson said.

A cybercriminal needs to have knowledge, willingness and ego, Johnson said. When those traits coexist, the criminal then needs to gather the data, commit the crime and cash out. However, a single criminal is rarely ever skilled enough to do all of these, which is why they rely upon each other for support using forums, marketplaces, Dark Web and surface Web groups. These networking groups ensure maximum success, Johnson said.

Everyone’s information is available on the Internet, and criminals know how to manipulate human beings, “that’s the way cybercrime works,” Johnson said.

“The game now is about fake ID scams, which has evolved into synthetic fraud—the fastest growing form of identity theft which resulted in $50 billion in losses last year. Over 80 percent of all new account fraud is synthetic fraud.”

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Kacy Zurkus