An Interpol-Trend study found that between October 2013 and May 2016, scammers walked off with more than US$3bn having exploited fake email techniques globally. Their techniques, which are no secret on Aussie shores, have slowly evolved from ‘send money’ emails back in the 2000’s to more sophisticated carbon-copy emails from large organisations used to lure victims into thinking they are the real deal and eventually holding them to monetary ransom.
This of course is a worldwide plague, targeting businesses in the west from small-medium businesses to large multi-million organisations. All it takes is one click. The Interpol report says West African cybercriminals are clearly shifting to more elaborate crimes, complex operations, and business models – tax fraud, in particular. Armed with their social engineering expertise and ingenuity, and augmented by tools and services (keyloggers, RATs, crypters, counter-AV services, etc), West African cybercriminals are stealing large amounts of money via crimes targeting individuals and companies worldwide.
But why do these cyber criminals originate from West Africa? Two pointers would be: Education and Motive. The lure of crime is strong with around half of all university graduates in West Africa being unemployed a year after they graduate. There are also big gangs operating in these regions. One gang, called The Yahoo!Boys (because until recently they used the failing portal’s chat tools to coordinate their scams) concentrate on big payout scams – where an online figure (typically a bogus Nigerian prince or foreign lawyer) promises a big payout if the victim coughs up fees to free up the supposed fortune.
Other tactics used by the Yahoo!Boys include romance scams, forming faux relationships with the lonely and then ‘borrowing’ money for plane tickets to consummate the relationship, as well as the so-called “send money” scam, whereby they pretend to be a foreign traveler who has been mugged and needs funds from friends and family. To those reading this now it seems far fetched to even believe people will actually pay attention to these emails but according to the Interpol report, a surprising number of people have done in the past.
Other gangs include the more sophisticated money-laundering operation where a network of money mules work closely with relatives in the target countries to smooth out the scamming process. It’s this group that has been raking in the billions. Regions with known ties to West Africa include Russia, Eastern Europe, South East Asia and even some parts of Latin America. Interpol reports some limited success in shutting down these groups, but says that for all the tips they pass on to local police, only about 30% end up in an arrest. As ever with online crime, finding the physical location of the criminals is a major issue.
If your company isn’t fully equipped to fend off cyber criminals, then you should definitely get in touch with us so we can discuss your options. Call us on 1300 768 779, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, fill out the web form, or have a Live Chat with us below.