Web Security


July 17, 2019 7:52 PM
Author: Svitlana Shepitsena
Main illustration for IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF A GENERAL FAILURE blog post
- Hello, is this technical support? Who is General Failure and why is he reading Drive C?!
- What? What is it all about?
- I got a notification on my screen: “General Failure Reading a Drive C:”

All stock pictures are licensed. Any screenshots or media material used in this article are taken from public internet resoursed only for warning and fraud prevention purposes. 

This funny anecdote used to be popular among Microsoft users more than 20 years ago and caused appearing a nickname “General Failure” in relation to all sorts of fraudsters/scammers who send friend requests on Facebook, Skype, etc, using fake profiles with stolen identity information and impersonate military members of the US Army.

I got used to receiving such requests from “US Army Generals” almost every day on Skype and Facebook for more than 10 years...


Another friend request from a man in a military uniform on my FB (see who really is Vennapusa Venkatavamsi at the end of the article).

Usually, I treated any such requests as fun. I mean, who wouldn’t even hope it was real? Until one of our clients fell for a trick and developed a virtual friendship with a SCUMMER ...

We conducted our own investigation to learn methods of “Generals” and figure out how not to become a victim of virtual fraud. 

For ethical reasons, we will not disclose the name of our client.

The main characteristics of a fake account:

Photos in uniform. (Photo is taken as an example from public internet resourse and widely used for creating fake profiles)

Many of the fake social accounts use real names and photos of US Army Generals - it is easy to find them on the Internet. But in most cases names are bogus  (like in case of our client). There are only 231 generals in the American army, - the probability that one of them decided to chat with you during his service time or free time almost equal to zero... 

If you go to https://images.google.com/ and check a photo, Google will give a thousand profiles with different names and photos of “General Faylor”. 
Lack of personal information on profile (poorly made life legend).

The majority of scammers are people who, for various reasons, have not found themselves in professional life and they are sloppy in everything they are doing. 
Usually, scammer’s profile is created recently, is inclomplete, has many friends who have only one photo or no posts, and very few friends. And those who are - the same "fake". 

According to a common legend, the “General” is a widower fighting in Syria or Afghanistan. It gives his life story even more drama and makes victims believe/hope, that their relationships have a real future. 

Yes, if you want to talk to the “general” via video - that will not work... The person behind the fake identity will avoid talking to you for any reason. He is in a foreign country in dangerous fighting conditions, the connection is bad and the video does not work ... the sound, usually, too...
The ideal victim of the “general” does not speak English fluently, because the “General” speaks English far from perfect and in the text of his letters has many grammatical errors. 

For the analysis, we have divided the method of working with the victims by the “generals” into 3 conditional phases:

1. Befriending and gaining trust by fake identity person.

The initiative always comes from the “Generals” and it starts with the innocent friend request on social media profiles. Usually romance-scam victims are very vulnerable people - in most cases divorced, widowed, or disabled women over 35. Ideally, they should not speak English fluently. It is easier to befriend them and get their trust just chatting, being interested in their life stories, express empathy, and love. 

2. Drama

In this particular case of our client’s “friend” the legend is that “general” is currently fighting in Syria, but he has a son in the US who is going to get brain surgery. As a proof, the “General” has sent son’s papers from a hospital, and he also was asking for advice from our friend whether it could be appropriate to negotiate for a lower price for the surgery with a doctor, etc ... 

Since the main goal of the scammers is getting money, virtual communication with the “general” ended up very predictable - “Send me money, please”.

Nothing personal :-). You are just a source of income to him, nothing more. 

We have conducted an internal investigation, we tried to look into the tools of scammers - DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DO THIS BY YOURSELF. We did this on the Virtual Machine, using the most reliable VPN - our antivirus exploded with popups notifying that we are under the attack.

Using a fake profile we became members of closed scammer groups - they call themselves “yahoo-boys”. After chatting we have received an address in a dark web, where you can buy “dating scripts” - a step-by-step algorithm to find the right victims (the victims are called “clients”), to gain their trust and get the money.

After 3 days of  monitoring their activity in the Dark Web  our conclusions: 

  • The online romance or dating scam is a huge and booming business mainly involving individuals from West Africa countries (in most cases Nigeria). The scam organization is very productive - one of the most active members complained that he has about 140 clients and he does not have enough time to work with all of them … The most popular complaint is that “there are a lot of clients, but they don’t send money”

  • “Customers' profiles” are on sale by dozens at a dark web auction. 

  • Many members of a dating scam group have avatars with a symbol of Nigeria’s bloody organization “Black Axe” which specializes in a scam, drugs, human trafficking. 

Inside the group they post VERY BAD pictures of people who allegedly tried to “turn the table” and get money from the scammers. The time when Nigerian letters were like a joke and probably their authors were only unemployed teenagers has gone. The huge money of a gang organization support online dating scum business. Do not play with fire, it can be very dangerous!

If you still decide to get involved in online communication - watch for “red flags” at any stage:

- military uniform,

- empty fake profile

- too close relationships that develop too quickly

- requests for money.

Their profiles are always distinguished by the external grotesque and superficial in details. Also, they are characterized by a huge number of grammatical errors - the US military person does not write this way:



Slightest effort to check on your part reveals the fake nature of “General Faylor”.

But if you are already in a difficult situation - please contact us. We know how the Web and the Dark Web work from the inside and we can help you.

P.S. Unfortunately, I have to admit that the tactic of the “generals” is effective ... Despite all my efforts and a million proofs, our friend stongly believes that she communicated with a real person and I forced her to “betray her friend”.

Romance scammers are people with the lowest morale that I ever dealt with. 


Here is my simple algorithm to check the next request to be friends:

1. Carefully read the information on the profile.

In this case, I personally got a request from a widower from Texas, who fights in Syria ...




2. Verify ALL photos in Google.

On this profile, the person in the form looks like a serious person holding a high position.

Right-click on the photo (if necessary, open the photo completely) and select "Search Google for Image" or the equivalent in the language installed on your computer.



3. Enjoy quick information :-)

John Campbell, US. Army. - It is quite a real person, only with a different name...



4. We are looking for information on Wikipedia.


The real general is a victim of identity theft. And you can become a victim of the so-called Vennapusa Venkatavamsi.

"A lie reveals a weak soul, a helpless mind, a vicious character."
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Be careful, he will break your heart and empty your bank account, and this is not the worst thing ... What could be worse - we promise to tell in next articles about web fraud.

Svitlana Shepitsena




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