Anyone with an email address has gotten a message from a “dear friend” in a far-off land asking them to help them transfer huge amounts of money out of that country, in exchange for a part of the profits. All you have to do is provide all your bank account and personal information, and millions could be yours!
But a man responsible for stealing more than $60 million from people around the world through such email phishing scams was arrested in Nigeria by Interpol and the country’s Economic and Financial Crime Commission. The man, known only as “Mike,” is believed to be responsible for a network of at least 40 people in Nigeria, Malaysia and South Africa who have stolen millions through a variety of bogus emails.
One person targeted by the network was conned out of $15.4 million.
Mike was involved in two types of fraudulent email scams, including one that compromised the accounts of high-level business executives. The criminal network would send an email from the account of a CEO instructing another employee to make a payment into an account they controlled. Mike also targeted businesses, pretending to be a supplier and requesting payment to a bank account, also controlled by criminals.
“The public, and especially businesses, need to be alert to this type of cyber-enabled fraud,” said Noboru Nakatani, an Interpol official. “Basic security protocols such as two-factor authentication and verification by other means before making a money transfer are essential to reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams.”
Email phishing scams are known as “419” scams after the part of Nigerian criminal code that prohibits the fraudulent requests for money. Mike, along with another person arrested by Nigerian authorities, faces charges of hacking, conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretenses. Both are on administrative bail.