Real-life Nigerian prince? Interpol nabs mastermind behind $60mn online scam

© Pichi Chuang
Interpol has arrested a Nigerian man suspected of spearheading a network of online fraudsters that raked in over $60 million through thousands of internet scams.

The man, identified only as Mike, was arrested in June in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt and is reported to have had at least 40 other individuals working for him in Nigeria, Malaysia and South Africa.

The 40-year-old used various malware programs, compromised emails and “romance scams.” One victim was conned into paying $15.4 million.

“The network compromised email accounts of small to medium-sized businesses around the world including in Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa, Thailand and the United States," Interpol said in a statement.

By taking control of email accounts associated with company bosses, known as ‘CEO fraud’, recipients would assume it was a legitimate email and follow the instructions of the sender, which usually involved depositing money into a bank account controlled by the scammers.

Using a number of money laundering contacts, most of the money was laundered through bank accounts in the US, Europe and China.

“The public, and especially businesses, need to be alert to this type of cyber-enabled fraud,” said Interpol’s Noboru Nakatani. “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.”

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The man was arrested along with a 38-year-old, with both now facing charges including hacking, conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretenses.