A Northern Irish scam-buster who exposes global fraudsters trying to swindle people out of their life savings has warned that the callous cheats are stepping up their cons by taking language lessons.
Jim Browning has revealed that the heartless gangsters, many of whom are based in India and Thailand, are now being taught new languages to sucker more victims into their webs of deceit on the internet and on the telephone.
"The criminals are now going to classes to learn Swedish, Danish or even Japanese so that they can speak to unsuspecting people in those places in their own languages.
"I have literally seen Japanese language proficiency certificates on some sites. And I've heard Indian scammers talking Japanese saying exactly what they would say in English," said Jim, who uses the Browning alias to ensure the organised rip-off gang can't target him.
"They're making millions so they could well afford to pay somebody to make my life uncomfortable. So I prefer to play it safe and stay anonymous. "
Jim disclosed that the hundreds of telephone scammers have their 'work' assessed in much the same way as honest operators in call centres who have regular targets to meet and face the axe if they fall below 'standards' - in other words if they don't snare enough new 'marks' they're out.
"It's like an industry," said Jim who has been featured in the past in major TV investigations like Panorama.
"There are performance evaluations and if people don't bring in enough money they are weeded out and replaced by new scammers. There are plenty of people waiting to take up the jobs."
One of the most common rip-offs that thousands of people in Northern Ireland have complained about in recent months involves fake phone calls purporting to come from the internet sales company Amazon regarding Prime accounts.
Jim explained how the scams start with an automated phone message telling people that they have been charged for signing up to an Amazon Prime subscription… calls that have nothing to do with the legitimate company.
The victim is then instructed to press 1 if they want to cancel the transaction and if they respond they are connected to someone posing as an 'Amazon customer service representative' who'll ask to be allowed remote access into their computer and get their personal and financial details.
Another well-used scam is an email one when people receive a message from a fake company 'confirming' their order for, say, a new mobile telephone.
Jim said: "There'll be a contact number on the email and the scammers will expect their targets to phone it to say that they never placed any such order.
"The gangs then say someone must be using the person's ID and they offer to refund the money. They'll get access to their target's computer and their bank details. The screen will go black so that they can edit the accounts and once it returns the scammers will say they have overpaid their targets and demand the overpayment to be paid into another account."
Jim's advice to people who receive unexpected communications is simple. He said: "If something seems too good to be true it usually is. And if it is a robotic call of any kind treat it with scepticism. Most firms like Amazon do not make contact that way.
"I would also say people should be wary of any sort of cold call which they should assume is a scam unless the caller can convince them otherwise.
"Sometimes it can be difficult to spot a fake call or email from a bank, for example. I think the industry has to sort that one out."
Jim regularly posts videos on his YouTube channel cautioning people about scams.
And one of his most recent videos outlined how the scammers are only interested in communicating with older people.
He played a recording of one fraudster who started her call about a fake virus by asking the age of the person she was ringing and when the answer came that they were under 50 she wasn't interested in taking the conversation any further.
"When you target only the over 50s you reach a whole new level of despicable," said Jim.
Jim's YouTube videos have also shown him turning the tables on the scammers.
He has a 'virtual' computer set up to allow the crooks to gain access to it but it's configured in such a way that allows him to follow the connection back to the scammers' machines to enable him to see what they're up to and where they're based. Having the ability to see who the conmen are targeting allows Jim to make contact with the vulnerable people and try to warn them off doing business with the rogues.
Jim, who runs his anti-scam operation in tandem with his 9-to-5 job, sometimes liaises with the police in the scammers' home countries and with security officials in the big IT companies and banks in a bid to thwart the cyber criminals.