Oh, Elsea Elizabeth Atmowardoyo, what could have been, my love… what could have been. As I write this blog, I am broken hearted. You see, it all began with a Requested Message in my Instagram chats from my sweet Elsea. Her account was private, like mine, so all I could see was her profile pic – a stunning, smokey-eyed brunette with ample cleavage and tattoos covering at least one arm. This, I thought to myself, could finally be the girl I take home to my parents…
Did I find it curious that she had 0 posts, 0 followers and was following 0 accounts? Perhaps. But clearly, she just created her account and had instantly fallen for me when she randomly stumbled upon my own.
To be honest, I loved that about her. On one hand, Elsea was confident enough to slide into my DM’s even though we were perfect strangers. Yet on the other hand, she was coy enough to not even muster a single sentence of correspondence. That silly girl. Instead, she simply provided an elaborate link to her Twitter. Okay, Elsea, I’ll play along…
But, dear reader, this is where this love story comes to a rather abrupt and bitter end. Elsea didn’t send me a link to her Twitter account. Instead, what popped up was a domain called “topgirlshere.com” with a different girl altogether:
Who the hell is Angela and what did she do with my Elsea?? And why does she want to trade nude pics with me?? And thus began my rapid descent into the dark, endless digital rabbithole that is Instagram Sex Bots. Make no mistake, this is a cautionary tale of treachery and deception, laced with the intrigue of international shell corporations.
If you’re male, you’ve most likely received similar messages before – if not every single day. A casual survey in the GP headquarters among the female staff revealed men seem to be the main targets of such a phishing scam (for obvious reasons). The exclusive goal of these scams is to obtain as much sensitive data about you as possible under the guise of interactive sexual content – credit card numbers being the ultimate prize. But who runs these scams, and why can’t Instagram do anything about them?
There are no easy answers. But in order to gain some perspective, I would have to get my hands dirty and go undercover as an eager mark. Most guys have learned to ignore, block or report such solicitation. But what happens if you don’t?
I was promised I would get to meet local women who were DTF, but before I could connect with them, I would have to answer “a few quick questions.” This is the standard operating procedure for many of these scams and it goes a little something like this: I’m told the women on this site are “horny cheating wives and single moms” looking to “f–k all the time.” Since it was “likely you will see someone you know, do you agree to keep their identity secret?” Wow. I knew it. Our society is a thinly-veiled lie covering a complex web of sexual transgressions so vast, I was bound to see the wives of friends and colleagues just aching to hook up at some Eyes Wide Shut mansion orgy.
How far does this go, I thought in bewilderment? Subsequent questions included:
The last question had a really interesting justification: “The women on this site are not interested in men younger than that due to rude and immature behavior in the past.” So the fact that men under 18 are considered children and it’s against the law to have sex with them is beside the point, the only reason these classy ladies aren’t interested is because they’re too “immature”… yeesh. After these questions were answered, I was congratulated for “qualifying” to enter their site. Before I proceeded, I decided to do some sleuthing…
Topgirlshere.com is one of the latest additions to the browser hijacker software group– the representatives of which typically target the user’s browser (be it Chrome, Firefox, etc.) and usually affect the way it operates. These applications tend to substitute the main homepage or the search engine as well as impose some new tab changes, search result modifications and page redirects without your approval. Topgirlshere.com, for instance, may even try to flood your screen with various ads, pop-ups, banners and promotional content every time you start a new browsing session.
These pieces of software are mostly used as advertising tools by different online marketers to automate the aggressive promotion of certain products, web pages, search engines, software tools, services and offers – which is the marketing equivalent of drugging / kidnapping someone on a first date so you can get to know them better and make a good first impression.
Had I gone through with it, I would have opened myself up to a barrage of advertising so persistent, there are pages dedicated to stopping it that look about as much fun as doing your taxes with a hangover. Punching “topgirlshere.com” into Google brings you to a blank page that reads “Site is under construction, please visit later.” #DeadEnd
And this is where the rabbithole’s rock bottom drops out from under me: when I tried to move forward to the coveted site in question via my mobile device, it brought me to yet a different domain called “Together2night.com.” As it turns out, by joining Together2Night.com, you will have your credit card charged repeatedly for services you did not consent to and there is no easy way to stop them from getting away with it. You also inadvertently grant them permission to use your uploaded images in any way they like – royalty-free! So, your pictures become a product that can be monetized across the entire company network. But who exactly owns this company?
That would be the innacous-sounding Together Networks LTD, a “global dating alliance” who “unites top-tier dating businesses worldwide, reinforcing joint performance with direct collaboration, sophisticated marketing solutions and exceptional audience engagement.”
And by “exceptional audience engagement” they mean scamming gullible, desperate men into getting charged for fake dating profiles, having their personal data exploited, and hijacking their operating systems so they drown in pop-up ads without end. Maybe it’s a form of digital karma for being so naive, or so sleazy, but two wrongs don’t make a right.
On a complaints board for the company, one unhappy user said his credit card was charged multiple times without his authorization, and that the tedious cancellation process lead him to contacting customer support located in Morocco that were no help. While their LinkedIn doesn’t reveal a location, a majority of Together Networks’ employees are in Ukraine – shocker.
The plot thickens when further research indicates the web servers for Together Networks are located in the British Virgin Islands – a notorious tax haven for offshore corporations. Not only this, but Together Networks might actually operate under the same umbrella as Norfex Services (“a global leader in innovational marketing”) who also has servers in the Virgin Islands and is apparently headquartered on the island of Malta. Confused yet? Me too. But it gets even bigger…
Behind all of these disparate-yet-connected entities appears to be a shadowy enterprise known as Trident Trust: “a leading independent corporate, fiduciary and fund administrator founded in 1978, employing over 900 staff across a global footprint that spans Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East.” Of course, they are also headquartered in the Virgin Islands, although under the name “Trident Chambers.”
A picture is worth 1,000 words, so here is a diagram illustrating the hypnotic vortex that is Trident Trust…
But I digress. Back to Elsea, and those who fabricated her affections toward me: Together Networks. Their “exclusive partnerships” include TopOffers (a “premium” CPA network) and Profit Social (an “exclusive” smartlink system). In the About Us section for TopOffers, they provide the following image with the subsequent copy:
“Hello Dear friend! Meet our TopOffers team, we are just above. Remember these faces! You can meet us at the best Affiliate Marketing conferences all over the world. Or just come to our cozy office, you are more than welcome!”
Ah yes, the TopOffers team hard at work. At first I thought this might be a stock photo, but their Instagram account seems to validate some of these faces. And where exactly is their “cozy” office located? Their LinkedIn states they are warmly nestled somewhere in Singapore, but they are also listed as being on Malta. So what’s up with Malta? Oh, just a bunch of secrets and lies. Keeping track of this intricate web of companies requires a full-blown conspiracy board…
What about that other Together Networks exclusive partner, Profit Social, you ask? While their LinkedIn has been deleted, checking out their contacts leads us to their profile on the Russian version of Facebook, “VKontakte,” which definitely rolls off the tongue way easier than their original “The VKontakte.” TopOffers and Profit Social are apparently separate entities under the Together Networks / Norfex Services umbrella, but browsing the social media reveals some of the same people working at both…
On the left of this photo, you’ll see “Profit Social” behind the lightsaber. To its immediate right, “TopOffers.” And just to the right of that, “Come to the Dark Side” – indeed.
And just what do these young marketing movers and shakers do with all the money they swindle from men worldwide? According to actual photos from their social media, it’s just business as usual…
According to their parent company, Together Networks ( / Norfex / Trident Trust / The Devil), this digital cabal of online dating phishing scammers “brings together leading online dating companies into a unique exchange point of nearly 20% of the world’s digital dating market (with a presence in 45 countries).” That’s no slice of humble pie right there. It turns out my sweet, mysterious Elsea is just part of the 8% of 1 BILLION Instagram users who are fake sex bots designed to take advantage of lonely / gullible men. And here I was thinking what we had was real, Elsea! (Cue uncontrollable sobbing).
Of course, this is not exactly on par with hacking the U.S. election, but it stands as a subversive and invasive breach of consumer trust and finances – with no apparent way to stop it aside from cancelling your credit card and potentially restoring your computer to its factory settings if the viral malware proves nefarious enough.
So why doesn’t Instagram do something about this? They try. The app regularly makes automatic and manual sweeps to locate and block fake accounts, but like digital zombies lurching out of the dark, they keep on coming. Of course, anyone with half a brain can automatically tell a fake account from a real one, and block or report them accordingly.
But somewhere out there, there are companies within companies located on remote islands who squeeze profits out of anyone foolish enough to sign up and have their data and money taken – whether they consent to it or not. Moral of the story: when “Minbabe11/24” wants to trade nude pics with you, just block / report her… even if she is only 2 miles away…