Interpol Nabs Accused Kingpin Of $60M Global Email Scam In Nigeria

Image courtesy of Mike Cook Foto

Fighting spam scammers might sometimes seem like a pointless game of Whac-A-Mole, but international law enforcement authorities say they have bopped one particularly large mole on the head by arresting the  alleged ringleader of a global email scam ring that swindled $60 million from its victims.

Interpol, along with the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), announced on Monday the arrest of a 40-year-old man, charging him with hacking, conspiracy, and obtaining money under false pretenses related to a worldwide scam network.

According to Interpol, the network run by the man — known as “Mike” — compromised email accounts of small to medium businesses in Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa, Thailand and the U.S.

In many cases, the compromised accounts targeted the financials of other companies, with one victim paying as much as $15.4 million.

The man allegedly oversaw 40 individuals in Nigeria, Malaysia, and South Africa who provided malware and carried out two types of fraud.

The first is a payment diversion fraud, where a supplier’s email is compromised and fake messages are sent to the buyer with instructions for payment to a bank account under the network’s control.

The second scheme, known as the CEO fraud, uses the email account of a high-level executive is compromised and a request for a wire transfer is sent to another employee who has been identified as responsible for handling these requests. The money is then paid into a designated bank account held by the criminal.

Authorities say the schemes allegedly headed by “Mike” are complex and difficult to crack, but that the arrest sends a clear signal that these schemes will no go unchecked.

“For a long time we have said in order to be effective, the fight against cybercrime must rely on public-private partnerships and international cooperation,” Abdul Chukkol, Head of the EFCC’s Cybercrime Section, said in a statement, noting that the partnership between Nigeria and Interpol made it “possible to disrupt the criminal organization’s network traversing many countries, targeting individuals and companies.”