How the BBC unmasked a Scammer Social Media Influencer using OSINT
A recent BBC Panorama documentary unmasked the world of social media influencer scammers, individuals who boast about the scams that they are allegedly conducting online, as well as the wealth that it generates them, encouraging their followers to also engage in the same crimes and lifestyle. In the documentary, the BBC revealed that these scammers sell guides detailing how to commit the same crimes as them for between £30 and £100, explaining how to defraud big retail brands and the universal credit system to earn thousands of pounds. Guides like the ones discussed in the documentary, that detail how to commit online crimes, have been detected throughout the Security industry, such as Bob’s Refunding eBook.
In this documentary, the BBC unmasked an alleged scammer who posts scam-rap videos online. The BBC revealed that this individual, who posts videos under the name Tankz, was allegedly an individual named Luke Joseph.
The Skopenow team has broken down the investigation carried out by the BBC, locating a number of clues that link Tankz to the name Luke Joseph, some of which were identified within the BBC Panorama documentary and some that were identified as part of our own research.
Within the BBC documentary, the presenter Kafui Okpattah explained how he was able to piece together clues from the internet to unmask Tankz. In his article on this subject, Okpattah explained in detail all of the clues that he and his team found:
“Panorama analyzed footage Tankz posted on social media, and realized he gave too much away while trying to remain anonymous.
We noted a reference to north London's Wembley as his local area, a mention of studying economics and finance at university, and a glimpse of his car number plate.
One clip also featured a distinctive black-and-grey carpet, and we were able to find a match on a website advertising student accommodation in the Wembley area.
His social media posts are anonymous, but we discovered that his songs were also listed on Apple Music. On one of his tracks, the copyright isn't listed to Tankz, but to what seems is his real name: Luke Joseph.
It didn't stop there. We discovered an email sent from Tankz's official address which also made a reference to the same name. There was even an eBay account under the name of Tankz, where Luke Joseph is the contact address.
Finally, we discovered that there was someone of the same name living in the same student accommodation block in Wembley. It seems that Tankz may be a London student called Luke Joseph.”
The Skopenow team used this explanation as the basis for their attempt to recreate this investigation, to demonstrate how social media can be utilized as a part of an investigation into a criminal.
To begin the recreation of this investigation, the Skopenow team started by linking the name Tankz to Luke Joseph. Locating Tankz’s music on streaming platforms enabled this to be done very quickly.
Firstly, by reading the source code on Tankz’s Apple Music page and searching for “composerName”, we were able to find the name, Luke Joseph.
Similarly, the Skopenow team was also able to link Tankz to the name Luke Joseph through the source code on Tankz’s page on the Deezer platform, which can be found by searching for the keyword ‘Writer’.
The article states that Tankz has an eBay page that contains his personal details. Locating Tankz username, @brtankz, from his Twitter profile, our team looked for an eBay account using the same username. Whilst an account was found, the information previously held has now been deleted.
Given that eBay encourages users to use PayPal, the team then searched for a PayPal account, which was quickly located. This profile again shows the name Luke Joseph linked to the username @brtankz.
The Skopenow team then attempted to geolocate Tankz, as per the steps identified in the BBC article. Analyzing Tankz’s videos on YouTube, the team immediately found links to the Wembley area in London.
In one video, Tankz is seen in front of a flight of stairs in a public place, which mentions an “Art Trail”:
The Art Trail and staircase were quickly linked to Wembley through Google Advanced Operators.
An Image on Spotify also showed Tankz in a vehicle outside of an Asda store, as seen by the sign in the background.
This Asda was quickly confirmed to be the Asda in Wembley. The staircase seen in the image can be seen in the below screenshot taken on Streetview.
A further music video shows Canada Gardens, with signs clearly displayed.
Google Maps shows Canada Gardens to be located very close to Wembley Stadium:
To confirm the Wembley location beyond a doubt, another location was selected from Tankz’s music videos, which was an Ikea store:
Locating the Wembley Ikea on Google Street View showed the same store and car park as seen in the video.
The Skopenow team then moved on to the claim that a vehicle registration could be seen in a video posted online by Tankz. The BBC team showed on the documentary that a Vauxhall Corsa was shown in a now-removed video where Tankz had interacted with police. The BBC team then looked for this vehicle in Wembley car parks to locate Joseph. The video, which cannot now be sourced, is shown in the documentary in the image below.
Unperturbed by the removal of this video, the Skopenow team set out to find other vehicles. The image taken at Asda, as shown above, shows Tankz using a black Mercedes, which means he may have access to multiple vehicles. In the music video filmed at Ikea, a white BMW is shown with a blanked-out number plate.
However, the team identified a video on Twitter that does not include the white box covering the plate.
The team ran the plate, M21 HUS, through UK government databases and identified that the vehicle should be a Black BMW 640. Therefore, the vehicle in the video is either on false plates or has been illegally resprayed to white without this being declared.
The Skopenow team tracked down the video that showed Tankz vacuuming a distinctive carpet.
As per the BBC’s investigation, these carpets match university accommodation in London Wembley.
During the investigation, our team observed Tankz wearing a Tottenham Hotspur jacket in one of his videos:
The name Luke Joseph was searched for mentions of Spurs, which brought back a Twitter account in the name of Luke Joseph.
This profile linked to a Youtube channel, where this Luke Joseph had posted videos whilst younger, which included a prank call to childline:
To conclude the investigation, the Skopenow team ran the username @brtankz through the Skopenow platform. In seconds, our platform located the Twitter, PayPal, and eBay accounts found as part of our manual investigation, as well as further accounts on Reddit, VK, Clubhouse, and Telegram, and a Facebook Page. Our platform also identified the name Luke Joseph from the sources shown in the manual approach above, as well as locating an Apple Music page where the name Luke Joseph was visible outside of the source code evidence that our team had found. On this page, along with the presence of the name Luke Joseph, the album image also shows Tankz wearing the same clothing that Luke Joseph was photographed wearing by the BBC.