How a cybercrime ring operated a multi-level fraud scheme


A peek underneath the hood of a cybercrime operation and what you are able to do to keep away from being a straightforward goal for related ploys

Tricks of the trade: How a cybercrime ring operated a multi-level fraud scheme

They hacked into company emails, stole cash from folks and companies, and tricked others into transferring the loot. Nigerian nationals Solomon Ekunke Okpe and Johnson Uke Obogo ran a classy fraud scheme that triggered as much as US$1 million in losses to victims. A US court recently sentenced the duo to 4 years and one 12 months behind bars, respectively.

Their legal operation engaged in a wide range of fraudulent schemes – together with business email compromise (BEC), work-from-home fraud, test fraud and bank card scams – that focused unsuspecting victims worldwide for greater than 5 years.

Right here’s how they pulled out the cons and, much more importantly, how one can keep away from turning into a sufferer of comparable ploys.

Step 1 – hacking into e mail accounts

With a purpose to get entry into victims’ e mail accounts, Okpe and co-conspirators launched e mail phishing assaults that collected 1000’s of e mail addresses and passwords. Moreover, they amassed giant quantities of bank card data and personally identifiable data of the unsuspecting people.

Typically, the most typical number of phishing entails sending out emails that pose as official messages which have a way of urgency and are available from respected establishments similar to banks, e mail suppliers, and employers. Utilizing false pretenses and evoking a way of urgency, these communications try to dupe customers into handing over their cash, login credentials, credit card information or different precious information.

One other approach to interrupt into one’s account is solely overcoming a weak password – assume a password that’s both too brief or made up too easy a set of characters and scammers can simply crack it with the assistance of automated instruments, i.e. “brute-force” it.

For instance, in case your password is eight characters lengthy and consists solely of lower-case characters, an automatic software can guess it in a couple of seconds. A password that’s advanced however is made up of solely six characters will be cracked simply as rapidly.

Hackers additionally usually make the most of folks’s penchant for creating passwords which might be extraordinarily simple to guess with out assist from devoted instruments. In line with a 3TB database of passwords spilled in safety incidents, the most popular password throughout 30 international locations was, you guessed it, “password”. Second got here “123456”, adopted by the marginally longer (however not likely a lot better) “123456789.” Rounding out the highest 5 have been “guest” and “qwerty.” Most of these logins will be cracked in lower than a second.

The takeaway? All the time use lengthy, advanced, and distinctive passwords or passphrases to keep away from having your entry credentials simply guessed or brute-forced.

Step 2 – attacking enterprise companions

After having access to victims’ accounts, Okpe and his workforce would ship emails to workers of firms that did enterprise with the sufferer, directing the targets to switch cash to financial institution accounts managed by the criminals, their co-conspirators or “money mules”. These emails have been made to seemed like they have been coming from the sufferer, however have been directions for unauthorized cash transfers from Okpe and his co-conspirators.

These assaults, known as enterprise e mail compromise assaults, are a type of spear phishing. Whereas common phishing assaults contain casting the web broad and goal unknown victims, spearphishing takes goal at a particular individual or group of individuals. Dangerous actors research each piece of data obtainable a few focused individual on-line and tailor their emails accordingly.

This clearly makes such emails tougher to acknowledge, however there are some apparent giveaways. For instance, these messages usually come out of the blue, evoke a way of urgency or use different strain ways, and include attachments or (shortened) URLs resulting in doubtful websites.

If a spearphishing marketing campaign goals to steal your credentials, two-factor authentication (2FA) can go a great distance in the direction of maintaining you protected. It requires you to supply two or extra id verification components to entry an account. The most well-liked choice entails authentication codes by way of SMS messages, however devoted 2FA apps and bodily keys present the next degree of safety.

In case you as an worker are requested to wire any cash, particularly underneath a good deadline, doublecheck that the request is real.

Step 3 – tricking folks into transferring stolen cash

Within the “work-from-home” scams, the gang falsely posed as on-line employers and posted adverts on job web sites and boards underneath a wide range of fictitious on-line personas. They pretended to rent giant numbers of people from round america for work-from-home positions.

Though the positions have been marketed as reliable, the scammers directed the employees to carry out duties that facilitated the group’s scams. Thus, victims have been unknowingly serving to scammers with creating financial institution and cost processing accounts, transferring or withdrawing cash from accounts, and cashing or depositing counterfeit checks.

To keep away from falling for a work-from-home rip-off, do your analysis. Search for the corporate’s identify, e mail tackle, and cellphone quantity and test whether or not there are some complaints in regards to the firm’s habits and practices. Certainly, when in search of a job on-line, begin with legit job websites and different reliable sources.

There’s extra

Moreover, Okpe and co-conspirators conducted romance scams. They created fictitious identities on courting web sites, feigning curiosity in romantic relationships with love-seeking folks. After gaining victims’ belief, Okpe and others used them as money mules to switch cash abroad and obtain money from fraudulent wire transfers.

Many romance scammers borrow from the identical playbook, which makes it simpler to acknowledge and keep protected from their tips. Be careful for on-line suitors who:

  • Ask victims a lot of private questions however are evasive when requested questions on their lives
  • Profess their love rapidly
  • Transfer the dialog rapidly off the courting web site to a personal chat
  • Make convoluted excuses for not assembly in individual or becoming a member of a video name
  • Fake to stay or work overseas
  • Have picture-perfect profile images
  • Inform sob tales about why they want cash, together with to pay for journey or medical bills, visas and journey paperwork

Be scam-smart – train warning particularly with unsolicited on-line communications and be careful for the tell-tale signs of online fraud.


5 signs you’ve fallen for a scam – and what to do next

Date: 2023-05-30 07:30:17

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Alina A, Toronto
Alina A, Toronto
Alina A, an UofT graduate & Google Certified Cyber Security analyst, currently based in Toronto, Canada. She is passionate for Research and to write about Cyber-security related issues, trends and concerns in an emerging digital world.


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