Internet scammers, by nature, are a resourceful lot.
They poke and prod, looking for various weaknesses to be exploited on online platforms, in company emails (as in Business Email Compromise, or BEC), through text messages and even the old-fashioned phone call that induces a victim to hurry online and send some money.
The scams? Well, they can be done from anywhere, affording the fraudster the luxury of plying his or her trade on the go, at all hours — and even, it seems, from prison.
News came this week, through BBC, that in Nigeria a man convicted of defrauding people over the internet has stolen the equivalent of roughly $1 million by continuing his activities behind bars.
And, according to the news outlet, he had some aid, as officials have said that Hope Olusegun Aroke used a “network of accomplices” for the most recent fraud forays.
He had been arrested in 2012, and, according to reports, has been imprisoned as part of a 24-year sentence at the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison in Lagos.
He had access to both the internet and to his phone. And through the latest scam, as detailed by the country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, he was able to use the fictitious name “Akinwunmi Sorinmade” in order to open two bank accounts.
With those accounts he then bought a luxury car and homes.
Beyond the obvious questions about internet access in the Big House, and security checks, it seems there are also questions around how Aroke was able to leave prison, stay at hotels and meet family members for social outings.
The notion of Nigeria as hotbed of fraud — well, that’s nothing new. Consider the fact that, for example, over the summer, U.S. prosecutors charged 80 individuals, many of them Nigerians, who allegedly defrauded businesses and elderly women through a slew of scams, including what are commonly known as “romance scams.” The scope and scale of the scheme was significant — as shown by a 252-count grand jury indictment unsealed in August.
The funds were laundered through an extensive network, according to CNN, netting as much as $6 million, while the attempted thefts came to about $40 million.
As quoted in September in the wake of those busts, FBI Special Agent Michael Nail referred to it all as “modern-day bank robbery. You can sit at home in your PJs and slippers with a laptop, and you can actually rob a bank,” he said.
Including when “home” is a cell.