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Scams, Frauds, and Fakes

Sat, September 7, 1:00 to 2:30pm, Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, Floor: Eight, Bacchus

Abstract

Scams are a pervasive feature of online experiences: phone calls from fake IRS agents, fraudulent emails asking for advance fee payment, bogus postings on marketplaces for jobs, etc. Often scamming involves an identity component, as scammers manipulate their personas through digital tools of spoofing, identity theft, etc. Fraudsters pose as employers on Care.com, seeking payments from nannies, cleaners, and other workers (Ticona, Mateescu, and Rosenblat 2018). Scams are taking place transnationally, through Indian call centers, Jamaican cottage industries for lottery prizes, and Nigerian “419” email writers. Scams may be read in multiple ways – as criminality and exploitation, but also as survival and coping within broader systems of inequality (Burrell 2008).

Building off of STS discussions of underground and illicit forms of digital agency, this session explores what scams illuminate about the online economy. We seek papers that inform questions like: How should we theorize scams in digital economies? What settings, resources, and technologies shape the contours of scams? How do participants create and adopt false personas? How do digital scams challenge our understandings of “targets” and “scammers”? What are the lines of continuity and change between older forms of fraud and newer ones? How are online actors responding to scammers, for instance, in vigilante “scambaiting” (Nakamura 2014)? How are systems of nation, race, gender, sexuality, and class intertwined with these dynamics? How do transnational scamming practices affect relations between countries? What are the institutional practices that support and limit online scamming, from states, legal systems, platforms, etc.?

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