Cybercrime activity continues to increase around the world, with Fiji being no exception.
It is described as a very broad term that includes any crime that targets or uses a computer, internet, network device, or network for the primary purpose of committing cybercrime activity for financial gain or loss.
Westpac Bank recently reported an incident of online fraud involving its Visa debit cards and had to put a stop to all compromised cards. A Westpac spokesperson said the problem was detected by its night watch team, so the fraud was contained and the amount nominal against their total volumes.
The bank spokesperson also said affected customers have been reimbursed as the bank seeks chargeback rights from an overseas merchant / bank.
“To be clear, this was not a breach of security measures on the Westpac side. Cards can be compromised if cardholder data is pulled from vulnerable and insecure online sites or through intriguing devices. placed in ATMs and EFTPOS, and as this data is collected it is used by fraudsters to carry out fraudulent transactions.
“We have a number of processes and best practice solutions in place to help protect our customers and reduce incidents of fraud, including CHIP technology and Westpac online security enhancements.
“As we know, fraudulent activity occurs frequently all over the world and even more so during this pandemic. Westpac continues to take steps to protect its customers from fraud and scams that target the Pacific, ”said the spokesperson.
Fiji Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Director Razim Buksh said so far this year that the unit has received 40 suspicious transaction reports of various scams, including cybercrime-type activity.
Mr Buksh said that in most cases, FIU intelligence results showed that Fijians had facilitated cybercrime activities through their “money accounts”.
“We have established that international cybercriminals would normally try to develop a personal relationship with unsuspecting Fijians and convince them to open a new bank account or apply for Visa debit cards,” he said.
Mr Buksh explained that in such cases, the criminals gain the trust of these local people and convince them to send them Visa debit cards to another country.
Meanwhile, criminals have launched other schemes locally and abroad to defraud others through the usual scams such as romance scams, investment scams, loan scams, etc.
“These other victims send or deposit funds to the local money-mule account and the cybercriminal withdraws the money abroad immediately after the deposits have been made.”
According to Mr Buksh, the FIU determined that it was impossible to trace the identity of the cybercriminals, as they allegedly used multiple identities to communicate with the mules and the victims.
He said it was important to note that sending Visa debit cards and providing personal PINs to anyone other than the account holder could violate the original agreement between the customer and the financial institution at time of opening the account and result in restrictions for mules. bank account to prevent the scam from happening again.
Credit card scam – a case study by the FIU
The FIU also noted that Fiji has been used by foreign criminals to facilitate fraudulent credit card transactions and launder funds in and through Fiji.
Mr Buksh said this was evident in Hannan Wang’s recent money laundering conviction in February 2021.
The case concerned electronic funds transfer point-of-sale (EFTPOS) fraudulent activity exceeding F $ 700,000 (approximately US $ 350,000) in which stolen credit cards were swiped into two EFTPOS machines fraudulently obtained by a union of three foreign nationals.
The union was in possession of around 500 stolen foreign credit cards.
Three foreign nationals have been charged in Fiji under the Proceeds of Crime Act for money laundering involving credit card skimming activities.
They were tried in the Fiji Magistrates’ Court from October 2 to 13, 2017 and October 23 to 24, 2017, November 10, 2017, November 21, 2017 and November 24, 2017.
All three have pleaded “not guilty” to the charges against them. On February 22, 2019, the Fiji Magistrates’ Court issued its judgment finding them “not guilty” and dismissing the money laundering charges against the three people.
The DPP appealed the decision of the Magistrates Court.
In February 2021, the High Court of Fiji ordered the following:
1) The appeal be allowed;
2) that the acquittal of Hannan Wang on the first count of money laundering be quashed and replaced with a conviction on the basis of a guilty verdict;
3) Hannan Wang be convicted of the first count of money laundering in violation of sections 69 (2) (a) and 3 (a) of the Proceeds of Crime Act; and
4) Hannan Wang be remanded in custody and brought before the Fiji Magistrates’ Court for sentencing.
Hannan Wang was sentenced in April 2021 to a custodial sentence of 5 years and 10 months imprisonment with 4 years without parole.
Hannan Wang appealed his conviction in September 2021, but this was dismissed by the appeals court.
Preventive measures against money laundering (AML)
Mr Buksh said the financial institutions covered by the FTR Act were at the forefront of the fight against financial crimes in Fiji.
These institutions support the FIU by implementing preventive measures aimed at ensuring the security and protection of their clients and their funds.
He said some of these measures included customer due diligence (CDD), monitoring of accounts or transactions and reporting transactions to the FIU under the FTR law.
He explained that CDD was undertaken when a person first entered into a business relationship with a financial institution, for example when opening a bank account and during the CDD process, l The financial institution will seek to establish the identity of the client, the nature / type of the account, the nature of the commercial activity carried out and the source of the income.
According to the FIU, these CDD processes aim to ensure that financial institutions know their customers and are not meant to be a barrier to people accessing bank accounts and other financial services, but a means of ensuring that the The financial institution is able to detect any transactions and prevent such transactions from occurring.
The information collected during the CDD process is used by financial institutions to monitor customer accounts and transactions and transactions that do not match the known personal history of the account holder (for example, business-type deposits to an account holder). personal account) are flagged and scrutinized for a possible report. as a suspicious transaction at the FIU.
In addition, Mr Buksh said that people or entrepreneurs doing business should make sure that they report this information to the bank when opening a bank account.
“The bank needs to have up-to-date information on an existing customer. The FIU’s preventive anti-money laundering measures are not aimed at restricting people’s access to financial services. These measures aim to prevent people from abusing financial products and services to launder, hide and store the proceeds of illegal activities.
Some tips for detecting online scams and bogus offers
1) Always check the name and contact details of the sender of the email or the person you are communicating with on the online platform. You can be easily deceived as email addresses can be easily spoofed and the domain name can have slight spelling changes to deceive you.
2) Typos and misspellings can be a good indication that the message you are receiving is not genuine.
3) Don’t share personal and sensitive information without thinking twice. For example, a bank will never ask for personal information via email. You need to call your bank directly to check if an email is genuine
4) Be careful with messages that ask you to act urgently or ask you to take immediate action. For example, the online offer / discount will expire in 24 hours, or you will immediately send money to secure the transaction.
5) Do not click any link button, icon or URL. The displayed text may not match the actual URL link – hover over a button, icon, or displayed link URL and if it does not match the sender’s website or looks strange, do not click.
6) Attachments can be dangerous, especially if the sender is unknown and the download looks suspicious.
7) Is it too good to be true? If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is! It’s just to grab your attention and get you to take action. This is definitely wrong; Beware of these bogus offers, proposals, investments, rewards, lotteries, packages, etc.
8) Remember that you cannot win the lottery if you have never participated in it. This is just a fake lottery winning notification, just ignore these messages.
9) Don’t fall for unsolicited or unfamiliar online jobs, this is a scam, they will either recruit you as money mule or they will just ask you to send money.
10) Don’t share your personal information online with people you don’t know or trust, especially through unsolicited web links. Protect your personal and banking information.
11) Remember that online scammers will do and say anything to rip you off and take your money. You may be the next victim online, so please exercise caution.
12) Don’t send money or give your credit card details to someone you don’t trust.
13) Make sure your devices are up to date. Check your antivirus and software updates regularly.
14) Check your online accounts regularly (to ensure that no changes have been made without your knowledge).