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New Contributor
aMobileDeveloper
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎07-01-2011
My Device: BlackBerry 9700
My Carrier: Blackberry

Too many scammers using Blackberry's to hide their true location, considering blocking ALL Blackberry users

Hello, I hope this is in the right section.

 

I am a mobile developer that runs a large mobile social media site, the largest in its market.

 

We are having a serious problem with Nigerian Scammers who are continually using BlackBerry browsers to hide the fact that they are connecting from Nigeria since BlackBerry browsers seem to be proxied via BB servers in the UK.

 

This is becoming so problematic for us that we are now considering blocking all access to BlackBerry devices across-the-board. Although this will eliminate some innocent users, it will also eliminate a significant number of Scammers that join our site, so it is a necessary evil we are prepared to undertake in order to keep our site clean for the greater good.

 

Before we take that drastic step, however, I wanted to come on here and ask if there is any way to know the real country of a BlackBerry user connecting to a site? For example, although the Opera Mini browser proxies users via servers in Europe and the US, they include a HTTP_X_FORWARDED_FOR variable in the HTTP Header that gives you the Clients original IP address from which you can derive the country they are connecting from.

 

If there is no way to see the actual country a BB user is connecting from, then I'm afraid we will be left with no choice but to block access to all BlackBerry's and advise our users during registration that they must use a different phone due to the level of Scamming coming from BlackBerry phones.

 

To give you a textbook example of a typical (and actual) user from Nigeria who has signed up to our site using a BlackBerry device while claiming to be from the UK, here is the IP address and User Agent of said Nigerian user:

 

IP Address: 93.186.31.236

User Agent: BlackBerry9700/5.0.0.979 Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/603

 

If you run that IP address, you will get the following location info:

 

---------------------------

UNITED KINGDOM

54.166997, -4.482106

ISP RESEARCH IN MOTION UK LIMITED

Domain BLACKBERRY.NET

IDD Code 44

---------------------------

 

However, the user is in Nigeria as he is trying to get people to send him money there by purporting to be an attractive young Western female stuck in the country and needing money to get out.

 

This has become a very serious problem for us and we need to urgently do something about it as we are losing legitimate users due to these scams.

 

Please advise and thank you in advance for your help.

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Developer
interfaSys
Posts: 817
Registered: ‎11-19-2009
My Device: Z10, Q10, 9900, 9790, PlayBook,
My Carrier: T-Mobile UK, Three, O2, Orange, Sunrise, Swisscom

Re: Too many scammers using Blackberry's to hide their true location, considering blocking ALL Blackberry users

It's easy to use a VPN on iOS and Android and spammers can spoof the User Agent using their mobile or their desktop PC, so your solution of blocking all Blackberry devices will not solve the problem, but perhaps make it more manageable.

--
Olivier - interfaSys ltd
Developing for BlackBerry 10 devices using the Sencha Touch framework.
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New Contributor
aMobileDeveloper
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎07-01-2011
My Device: BlackBerry 9700
My Carrier: Blackberry

Re: Too many scammers using Blackberry's to hide their true location, considering blocking ALL Blackberry users

"but perhaps make it more manageable."

That's exactly what I'm looking to do. So, any ideas based on what I wrote above? Thanks.
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New Contributor
aMobileDeveloper
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎07-01-2011
My Device: BlackBerry 9700
My Carrier: Blackberry

Re: Too many scammers using Blackberry's to hide their true location, considering blocking ALL Blackberry users

So, any ideas from anyone?

 

Thanks.

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Administrator (Retired)
mkirkup
Posts: 179
Registered: ‎07-14-2008
My Device: Not Specified

Re: Too many scammers using Blackberry's to hide their true location, considering blocking ALL Blackberry users

Unfortunately, there is no way to determine the physical location of an individual when they are leveraging our browser to proxy traffic through our infrastructure whether in the UK or other regions around the world.  As noted on the thread, I do not believe that blocking all BlackBerry users would provide much value to either you or your potential users.

 

One approach to solving the problem is to attempt to get the physical location from the device itself.  This is possible using HTML5 (on more recent devices) or using the javascript calls for obtaining location.  Another option is to package your webpage up for BlackBerry device users as a WebWorks app such that the application itself can determine location before allowing someone to sign up.

 

Hope that helps.

 

Mike Kirkup
Director, Developer Relations
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New Contributor
aMobileDeveloper
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎07-01-2011
My Device: BlackBerry 9700
My Carrier: Blackberry

Re: Too many scammers using Blackberry's to hide their true location, considering blocking ALL Blackberry users

[ Edited ]

Hello Mike,

Thank you for your thorough reply.

Unfortunately, it is not what I (or any mobile developer) wanted to hear.

The fact of the matter is, scammers in Africa are using Blackberry's to target Westerners in Advanced Fee Frauds, and based on your reply, BlackBerry is not doing absolutely anything to alleviate the situation.  By being the only mobile company to completely and unecessarily mask the originating IP and country of those scammers, BlackBerry is making its phones the preferred tool of Scammers on the mobile web.

There is no adequate reason or explanation for BlackBerry not to provide the originating IP information - or at the very least the country of origin - to mobile sites across the globe, and doing so makes them knowingly complicit in these scams by facilitating their very execution.

Requiring developers to alter their code just for BlackBerry users, only to force them to have to inconvenience their own users with an additional step during registration that could cost them that new user, just to attain something every other phone maker provides automatically and that BlackBerry should be providing to begin with, is asking too much of both developers and consumers, particularly when the solution is so simple.  BlackBerry should just include the originating IP (or country) in the HTTP headers of all its users just like Opera Mini does (another proxy-based mobile service):

--------------------
Opera Mini has an additional issue. The IP address of the HTTP connection is the address of the Opera Mini Server, and it can be very distant from, even be in a different country than, the Opera Mini Client.

The X-Forwarded-For header contains the more useful IP address of the Opera Mini Client. Services using the IP address to give localized content should first look for an X-Forwarded-For HTTP header, and only if such a header is absent use the remote IP address of the HTTP connection
--------------------

There is simply no excuse, although I'm sure the company has one lined up.  Unfortunately, with the relative decline of BlackBerry users surfing the mobile web, and the exploitation by African scammers of this very serious oversight, developers of large mobile social networks such as myself will have no choice but to ban all BlackBerry users with a detailed explanation to those users that too much fraud is coming from BlackBerry users and the company does not care to aid developers in rooting those scammers out.

Perhaps enough public pressure will eventually force BlackBerry to change this ridiculous policy, but hopefully before the company succumbs to its current downward trend.

As a company struggling to compete in this fast-changing mobile world, the last thing you want to do is alienate developers, because if you alienate developers, then you end up alienating consumers who use the products and services of those developers.

I don't expect to change company policy with this post, but BlackBerry also cannot expect developers to sit idly by and allow our users to continue to get scammed via BlackBerry's.

I hope - at the very least - that this will be a serious wake up call for the company.  Do not think for one moment that I am happy about having to ban thousands of possibly legitimate users - in fact, it irratates me, especially when the solution is so easy - but I am left with no choice when even more users are getting scammed by BlackBerry users.

If BlackBerry ever decides to make this obvious change, please let me know here.  Until then, and as of next week, all BlackBerry users will be banned from our mobile social network and will be advised to use a different mobile phone for the greater good of the community.  They will also be directed to take their complaints directly to BlackBerry.

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New Member
da644
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎08-17-2012
My Device: None
My Carrier: None

Re: Too many scammers using Blackberry's to hide their true location, considering blocking ALL Blackberry users

We have exactly the same issue, with way too many African scammers using the Blackberry network to hide their true location. RIM should be ashamed of themselves and as it has been pointed out, it would be very easy to solve.

 

@aMobileDeveloper, if you ever managed to work anything else out please can you reply here and let me know as I would be keen to hear about it.

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Developer
Bluenoser
Posts: 257
Registered: ‎04-04-2012
My Device: BlackBerry Z10/Z10LE/Q10/PlayBook

Re: Too many scammers using Blackberry's to hide their true location, considering blocking ALL Blackberry users

You can do that if you want, but they will just find another route. I would suggest you look at dealing with better policing with your site. If you site is that large, then you should have the resources to create controls to look for words in postings like "need money" and "Nigeria". You are focused outward and trying to blame RIM, when you should be focused inward and looking at what you can do internally. I very much doubt that the only postings for this type of scam are just blackberrys. Also, if you are only looking at the IP and not the content of the messages themselves, you are setting yourself up to fail.
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New Contributor
aMobileDeveloper
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎07-01-2011
My Device: BlackBerry 9700
My Carrier: Blackberry

Re: Too many scammers using Blackberry's to hide their true location, considering blocking ALL Blackberry users

@da644:  The only solution to this problem is to do what we did:  prohibit all BlackBerry's from signing up and educate them as to how BlackBerry's are the preferrred tool of mobile scammers due to RIM's policy of masking their location, and recommend they get another mobile phone from a different company.  After we impemented this across-the-board ban on BlackBerry's, our registrations fell about 5%, but the number of scammers fell by over 80%.  It was a no-brainer.

 

@Bluenoser:  You obviously have no experience running a large mobile social network otherwise you wouldn't be posting such bad advice.  Dealing with scammers is not about eliminating them completely as that is simply not possible.  It's about making it more difficult for them using a multi-pronged approach so that they give up and target an easier site.  It is significantly more difficult to use a proxy on a moble phone than on a PC, and a lot of these Nigerian scammers are poor and only own a mobile phone, so their criminal tool of preference are BlackBerry's since RIM provides them a free and safe proxy, thus making it entirely too easy and effortless for them to hide their true location and scam others.  The proof is in the pudding, after we banned BBs from our site, the number of scammers fell by 80%.  Nothing has been more effective in reducing the number of scammers than banning BlackBerry's from our site.

 

And until RIM changes this ridiculous policy of hiding the true IP / location of scammers in Africa, we wil continue to ban all BlackBerry's from our large mobile social network.

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Developer
Bluenoser
Posts: 257
Registered: ‎04-04-2012
My Device: BlackBerry Z10/Z10LE/Q10/PlayBook

Re: Too many scammers using Blackberry's to hide their true location, considering blocking ALL Blackberry users

Since it seems that you don't understand how RIMs NOC works, then you will know that RIM will not change how it functions. And I know all about social media sites and how to limit spammers and scammers. By taking the lazy way of just using an IP address, then you are losing 5 percent of users. There are other ways to implement a better solution.

You wait, you will find very shortly that the Nigerian spammers will be using a web based proxy access to your site. Good Luck.
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