Three men have been jailed after defrauding elderly bank customers of more than £390,000 and laundering the cash through multiple fake accounts.
Taminder Virdi from Ilford, and Abubakar Salim from Leyton, who both worked at the same TSB branch in Stoke Newington in 2014, transferred funds out of customer accounts into 65 fraudulent beneficiary accounts they had opened.
These accounts were controlled by accountant Babar Hussain from East Ham.
Officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) were alerted to their activity when one of the eight victims, all of whom were in their 70s, reported that £56,000 had been transferred out of their bank account without consent. That money was then deposited into seven beneficiary accounts opened in different names.
Hussain was arrested in 2016 and officers recovered a number of fraudulently obtained genuine driving licenses, which Virdi and Salim used along with fake gas and electric bills to open up the beneficiary accounts.
When he was interviewed, Hussain claimed that part of his work in the community involved opening and managing bank accounts for those just arriving in the UK with no fixed address.
Messages on Hussain’s mobile phone identified other victims of fraud, where Virdi and Salim abused their position within the bank to access their accounts and transfer money into beneficiary accounts.
Virdi was arrested in 2016 and Salim in 2017.
Following the internal investigations, TSB reported the incidents to the police and assisted the NCA fully with the investigation.
All three were charged with fraud by abuse of position and money laundering.
Hussain was jailed for five years and four months.
Virdi and Salim were found guilty in April 2019 and were sentenced to three years and six months and four years respectively.
Mike Hulett, Head of Operations at the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said:
“Hussain is a professional money launderer who used his accountancy knowledge to steal hundreds of thousands of pounds from elderly banking customers.
All the customers who lost money were fully reimbursed by the banks.
If you have any experiences with this kind of scam do let me know, by email.
Males and females suffer from roughly the same scams and lose approximately the same amounts of money.
There are small differences in the types of scams that men and women respectively fall for most commonly and there are some differences across age groups but for adults the level of scams suffered is not really a match to age groups.
It is clear that 25-55 is the age group most affected by scams and this is likely to be because these are the most economically active ages.
For the same reason, managerial and professional people are more likely than other occupational groups to be scam victims.
If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.
Olalekan Jacob Ponle, known as “mrwoodbery” to his Instagram followers, flaunted his wealth, including a new Lamborghini he had in Dubai.
He was arrested by Dubai Police for alleged money laundering and cyber fraud.
A number of African criminals were caught in the dramatic operation, including 37-year-old Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, “hushpuppi” or just “hush” as he was known by his 2.4 million Instagram followers.
Police in the emirate say they recovered $40m in cash, 13 luxury cars worth $6.8m, 21 computers, 47 smartphones and the addresses of nearly two million alleged victims.
Mr Abbas and Mr Ponle were both extradited to the US and charged in a Chicago court with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and laundering hundreds of millions of dollars obtained from cybercrimes.
It is a spectacular crash for the two Nigerian men who extensively documented their high-flying lifestyle on social media, raising questions about the sources of their wealth.
They unwittingly provided crucial information about their identities and activities for American detectives with their Instagram and Snapchat posts.
Business Email Compromise Scam
The criminals used various scams including the 419 Advance Fee scam but the most lucrative was Business Email Compormise.
They are accused of impersonating legitimate employees of various US and tricking the recipients into transferring millions of dollars into their own accounts.
In one case, a foreign financial institution allegedly lost $14.7m in a cyber-heist where the money ended up in hushpuppi’s bank accounts in multiple countries.
The FBI affidavit alleges that he was involved in a scheme to steal $124m from an unnamed English Premier League team.
“The scammer would gather contextual details, as they watched the legitimate email flow,” explains Crane Hassold, Agari’s senior director of threat research.
“The bad actor would redirect emails to the bad actor’s email account, craft emails to the customer that looked like they are coming from the vendor, indicate that the ‘vendor’ had a new bank account, provide ‘updated’ bank account information and the money would be gone, at that point.”
They try to convince a recipient to wire money to the other side of the world or they go “phishing”, stealing a user’s identity and personal information for fraud.
On Instagram, hushpuppi said he was a real estate developer, but the “houses” he talked about were actually codewords for bank accounts used to receive proceeds of a fraudulent scheme.
In April, hushpuppi renewed his lease for another year at the exclusive Palazzo Versace apartments in Dubai under his real name and phone number.
The FBI obtained records from his Google, Apple iCloud, Instagram and Snapchat accounts which allegedly contained banking information, passports, communication with conspirators and records of wire transfers.
I expect their many victims would be pleased for the criminals to rot in jail for a very long time.
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Cyber Aware gives the UK government’s tips on how to stay secure online.
Create a separate password for your email and separate passwords for any important online accounts e.g. financial ones
Make sure the passwords are strong e.g. use three random words hat no-one else could guess
Saving your passwords in your browser means you wont need to remember so many different passwords
Turn on two-factor authentication for important accounts where it is available
Keep your devices up to date with latest security
Backup all important files regularly. Most devices can do this automatically for you.
Your personal email account contains lots of important information about you and is the gateway to all your other online accounts. If you forget an account password, your email address is the means to reset that password and this makes your email password critical to you.
If your email account is hacked all your other passwords can be reset, so use a strong password that is different to all your others.
Weak passwords that can be guessed or are a word in the dictionary can be hacked quite easily.
The longer and more unusual your password is, the stronger it becomes and the harder it is to hack. The best way to make your password long and difficult to hack is by using a sequence of three random words you’ll remember and no-one else can guess.
You can make it even stronger b including special characters such as @£# etc.
Starting with your most important accounts (such as email, banking and social media), replace your old passwords with new ones.
2FA is a free security feature that gives you an extra layer of protection online and stops cyber criminals getting into your accounts – even if they have your password. It reduces the risk of being hacked by asking you to provide a second factor of information, such as getting a text or code when you log in, to check you are who you say you are.
Check if the online services and apps you use offer 2FA – it’s also called two-step verification or multi-factor authentication. If they do, turn it on.
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