Police yesterday pointed to a worrying trend of Internet fraud, including identity theft ahead of the holiday season.
Assistant Superintendent Matthew Edgecombe of the Business and Technology Crimes Unit of the police force told The Nassau Guardian that in one instance this year an offshore bank based in The Bahamas was defrauded of $1.5 million.
Edgecombe said while incidents of that scale are not common, in the last six months alone at least 30 Bahamians have reportedly had their bank accounts hacked and money transferred in the hundreds of thousands of dollars collectively.
Sergeant Dale Strachan said this tends to occur in the form of emails requesting banking and other personal details, which are usually from other jurisdictions.
He said forwarded emails with attachments that are then forwarded or replied to often have spyware, malware and key loggers hidden within them, allowing suspects to obtain key financial information.
Although he was unable to provide statistics, Strachan said the Central Detective Unit is inundated with calls reporting claims of substantial amounts of money being scammed from savings accounts, credit cards and payments made to fake businesses.
“When companies and people do business online they have an email account that they give their banks instructions to do A, B and C — transfer money, pay bills etc. — and because this is a trend the bank and other financial institutions believe that this must be the [owner] as this is the norm,” he said.
“What happens is those people’s emails were compromised and hacked and the same instructions that they gave the bank, the hacker gave to send funds to different places on different accounts.”
Strachan encouraged online users to use multiple email addresses; strong passwords; anti-virus software; to be careful using credit cards on unofficial websites and to notify their banks immediately if they notice something is wrong.
Edgecombe said it is usually around this time of year that fraudsters target unsuspecting Bahamians or tourists as they go about spending for the holidays.
He said some people come to The Bahamas around this time of year to commit credit card fraud in particular.
Last December, a Brazilian woman and her American companion allegedly scammed three major Bahamian resorts and four stores of nearly $100,000 during their month-long stay in The Bahamas.
In addition to credit card and bank account fraud, Edgecombe said there is an increase in the dispersement of counterfeit currency.
Inspector Debora Thompson said a lot of the counterfeit Bahamian and U.S. dollars are being produced locally with increased sophistication.
“You want to look to see that it has all the security features, [such as] the corresponding thread for the note that the customer is presenting,” said Thompson, who encouraged local businesses to be careful this season.
“What we have been seeing is that individuals have been bleaching the $1 note and printing higher denominations on them and presenting them to merchants.”
By Royston Jones Jr.
Guardian Staff Reporter