“Alright lads,” a man sitting in the passenger seat of a moving car says in a heavy British accent. In his left hand he holds a special phone he is showing off to his clients, while with the other he films his demonstration which was later uploaded to Telegram. “I’m only going to say it once, yeah. You swipe, and it’s gone,” he continues, demonstrating one app installed that can instantly destroy data stored on the device.
The phone in question is one from “Russiancoms,” an underground outfit that sells the devices for just under $2,000 each. For that price, customers get a laundry list of features: the ability to spoof phone numbers, play hold music, and have a computerized voice read pre-determined scripts. While Russiancoms does not acknowledge in its Telegram channel what the phones might really be for, those are features well suited to committing fraud.
The Russiancoms Telegram channel periodically deletes its videos and other messages, but 404 Media has been archiving many of them for months. They provide insight into a little known industry of fraud phones, ones that make it easy for anyone to enter the world of robocalling or other scams. While much of the underground phone industry has been focused on providing secure communications to criminals—companies like Phantom Secure, Encrochat, and Sky for example—Russiancoms and similar companies appear to cater to a different use case: enabling people to make calls that fraudulently appear to come from someone else. A common tool in the underground is also so-called Russian SIMs, which can spoof numbers in some cases. Russiancoms’ phones, however, are more fully featured.