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07-01-2011 08:43 AM
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: 22.214.171.124
User Agent: BlackBerry9700/126.96.36.1999 Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/603
If you run that IP address, you will get the following location info:
ISP RESEARCH IN MOTION UK LIMITED
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.
07-01-2011 11:03 AM
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.
07-01-2011 11:08 AM
07-04-2011 03:03 PM
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.
Hope that helps.
07-04-2011 07:05 PM - edited 07-04-2011 07:10 PM
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.
08-17-2012 06:32 PM
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.
08-17-2012 11:37 PM
08-18-2012 04:25 AM
@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.
08-18-2012 07:09 AM