Nigerian Scam: Malware Mastermind Caught? ‘Mike’ May Be Behind Over 60 Million Dollars In Email Fraud

The Nigerian scam is something nobody thinks they’ll fall for until they do. Thanks to Interpol’s efforts, the number of people fooled by an alleged malware mastermind could be going down considerably.

The way these things work is that you see something online which you want badly, usually on Craigslist, forums or dating sites. You end up actually interacting with someone in Nigeria who it turns out “needs your help” to send you what you want. They often use customs charges as a way of making you think the government itself is holding them back, and they keep requesting more money often sent through Western Union. It isn’t until you’re in more debt than you can handle that you realize you’ve been the victim of a Nigerian scam.

Western Union has taken steps toward cutting down on these fraudulent transactions, including refusing to process the transfer if it sounds less than legitimate. They even ask you over the phone whether you know the person and their personal details. Repeated attempts often end up making the office processing the transaction ban anything further from you for your own good.

Interpol believes they may have found the malware mastermind behind these Nigerian scams, a 40-year-old man who goes only by the name Mike in Port Harcourt in June. He was arrested along with his 38-year-old accomplice, although there was not enough evidence to make the charges of fraud and ill-gotten monetary gain stick.

The Executive director of the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation, Noboru Nakatani, made the following statement.

“The public, and especially businesses, need to be alert to this type of cyber-enabled fraud. 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. It is exactly through this type of public and private sector cooperation that Interpol will continue to help member countries in bringing cybercriminals to justice no matter where they are.”

It’s unknown if these arrests will curb the Nigerian scam entirely in the future, or if someone else will step in and take over where they allegedly left off.

You can take steps to ensure you don’t fall victim to these Nigerian scams, either as a hacked money source or as someone unintentionally using it.

  • Never respond to emails asking for personal information such as social security numbers or bank account numbers. Even if the email looks like it’s from a legitimate business, don’t go to the site from the email link. Sign in through a browser bookmark or simply google the business site and check on it from there. The email might contain a redirect code which brings you to a fake site intended to collect sensitive information. Nigerian scammers may have been using this method for years.
  • Whenever you use a public ATM, especially outdoors, give the card reader or keypad a tug. If they come off easily, and what remains is still user-friendly, what you tugged off was an identity theft device meant to steal your account information. Also, be sure to guard your key presses because there may be a hidden camera watching those as well.
  • If you must date someone overseas or outside your country, and they ever ask you to send them money, and you haven’t actually met them in person, they might not be real.

Remember that there is no such thing as absolute security, and if the Nigerian scammers are still around, the threat isn’t over.

[Image via tubartstock/Shutterstock]