The ringleader of a global scamming network was arrested by Interpol for scamming $60 million from companies around the world – through fraudulent emails. The 40-year-old man is being accused of running a criminal network that compromised emails of businesses all throughout the world. The location of this email fraud network? Nigeria.
Interpol and Nigeria’s anti-fraud agency picked up a 40-year-old known as Mike along with a 38-year-old accomplice in Nigeria’s oil capital, Port Harcourt. The investigation took months, according to Nigeria’s anti-fraud agency.
After the arrest, the law enforcement agencies discovered the men were involved in a much larger range of criminal activities including business e-mail compromise (BEC) and romance scams.
According to a statement by Interpol, payment diversion fraud was the main source of the criminal network’s income – “a supplier’s email would be compromised and fake messages would then be sent to the buyer with instructions for payment to a bank account under the criminal’s control – and ‘CEO fraud’.” The criminals would then withdraw the money and attempt to erase any paper-trail.
The email address of a high-level company employee, such as a CEO, would be hacked by the Nigerian men. That email account would then be used to request a money transfer from another employee who was responsible for handling financial requests. The payment would be sent, and the scam would be completed. One such scam paid out over $15 million, according to an Interpol statement.
Businesses around the world including in the United States, Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa and Thailand were affected by the Nigerian scammers.
The investigation began when Trend Micro, a digital security company, provided a report on the scam to Interpol. This, combined with analysis and intelligence from another security firm in 2015, enabled specialists at Interpol to locate the suspect in Nigeria, resulting in his arrest in June.
More than 40 people in Nigeria, Malaysia and South Africa were involved in the criminal network. They provided malware and carried out frauds with money-laundering contacts and banking details.
Interpol says that such cyber-fraud “poses a significant and growing threat, with tens of thousands of companies victimized in recent years. The public, and especially businesses, need to be alert to this type of cyber-enabled fraud.”
As ABC News says, Nigeria is notorious for internet fraud. While this isn’t the “Nigerian Prince” email scam, it certainly is a form of email cybercrime that has had a growing impact.