It was in the ’90s that #internet users first fell prey to #email scammers. The method involved luring people with a commission of a few million dollars for transferring billions of dollars to the account of a #nigerian prince. The scam came to be popularly known as the 419 scam, after the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code which outlaws the practice. In 2014, the story of the Nigerian prince may be outdated, but the scammers are still around. According to the #federal bureau of investigation, “#nigerian cyber criminals have turned at-home internet users into unsuspecting accomplices. Investigators are calling it purchase order fraud, and the perpetrators are extremely skillful.”
One of the newest methods of the scammers involves duping companies, particularly in the export and import business, by hacking their emails, and obtaining information about their buyers. What follows are fake orders from the customers with 30-day credit. By the time the business house realises that the order was a prank to dupe it, it is invariably too late. About two months back, when an exporter from Rajasthan received a promotional email, he never thought clicking it would cost him nearly $1,000. The spam mail not only compromised his password but also corrupted his inbox. An unidentified malware, which worked in stealth, created filters that kept the exporter in the dark about the emails being sent out of his account. Sitting miles away, the scammers successfully diverted a payment of $1,000, which the exporter was to receive, to their bank account in the United Kingdom.
A widespread problem
“Reports of payment diversion are coming from almost all states. More than 100 complaints could have been registered so far,” says Rakshit Tandon, advisor, cybercrime redress cell of the Uttar Pradesh Police. Online financial frauds come in varied forms like auction, credit-debit card , check and lottery frauds, which are together known as 419 #aff (advance-fee fraud) crimes. In India, there are 49 AFF scam rings with 1,610 active members, the fifth highest in the world, according to a report by Ultrascan Advanced Global Investigations released in July. In 2005, there were only three AFF rings with 79 active resident members. Active resident members stay in one country to dupe residents in another country – the basic modus- operandi for most fraudsters -so as to work in different geographies and jurisdictions, the report says. This apart, there are also a number of local rings that recruit poor people to perform tasks like opening a bank account or registering a company in the area of operations. India suffered financial losses of nearly $870 million on account of AFF frauds in 2013, the fourth highest in the world, up from $32 million in 2006.