Internet crooks cheat residents out of $3.8m this year alone
Island residents were swindled out of almost $4 million this year by internet fraudsters, police have revealed.
A police spokesman said that “entire life savings” had been lost in some cases.
But the authorities have managed to recover only $40,600.
Detective Chief Inspector Sherwin Joseph of the special investigations unit said the cost of computer crime totted up to more than 3.8 million for the year.
E-mails hustles accounted for 56 per cent of cases, social-media scams made up 22 per cent and a string of other tactics were employed for the other 22 per cent.
Mr Joseph highlighted remote access fraud, where people are targeted with phone calls claimed to be from reputable telecommunications or computer firms from abroad or on the island.
Victims were offered help for a slow computer – or asked to download software because their antivirus protection had expired.
But the fraudsters instead seized control of target computers and demanded cash or they would release embarrassing personal information or accessed online banking on the quiet and stole money.
Scams that offered unsolicited lottery wins or a slice of an overseas fortune once targeted people by post or fax, but started to go online from 1995.
The police commercial crime unit in 2000 warned of “the relatively recent emergence of using block e-mail” by fraudsters after people’s banking details.
Scams in the early 2000s ranged from bogus messages from banks and the US Internal Revenue Service to the “UK International Lotto”.
E-mails said to be from credit card companies began to feature authentic-looking logos – and ironically claimed to be sent for security reasons.
“Phishing” e-mails copying Bermudian banks were rife by 2005, which prompted another round of police warnings.
Unsolicited e-mails that asked for an advance fee for an overseas lottery win or investment often used wire transfers to avoid getting traced, police said in 2009.
The “business e-mail compromise scam” in 2016 targeted companies where staff often made wire transfers.
More recently, scammers turned to social media, with police in 2019 sounding the alarm over a bogus Instagram account – again soliciting wire transfers for a payout through currency exchanges.
Online grifters also used compromised social-media accounts to hoodwink the user’s friends.
Messages or videos would appear that claimed the owner of the account had just earned thousands through an investment.
One such scheme this year asked victims to invest $1,000 to earn $10,000 in ten minutes.
People who transferred the $1,000 in the expectation of a fast return would get hit again with demands for more money to have their funds released.
A police spokesman said: “At some point, usually after they have made additional payments, the victim would become suspicious and contact their friend or family via other means, only to find out that they were not communicating with them, and that their social-media accounts were hacked.”
Authorities reported an arrest in connection with that type of scheme at the start of this month.
The Royal Gazette reported on the Samsung Lottery scam a year ago – and police repeated their warning this month.
Fraudsters contact potential victims over WhatsApp messenger informing them that they won a large prize in the “Samsung Lottery”.
Victims were asked to pay a fee up front for the transfer of their winnings.
The police said: “The fraudster would also ask for personal information to make the transaction seem legitimate.
“However, after sending the funds the victim would not receive their winnings, nor were the funds they paid up front returned to them.”
Police said WhatsApp and other social-media platforms had featured in the investment pitch for a fraudulent iTunes card scheme.
The fraudster would ask the victim to send the iTunes card codes to complete their investment – with promises of high returns.
After victims commit funds, the fraudster continued to ask for more iTunes card codes and made promises of profits that never materialised.
Police gave the total lost to various scams over the past 12 months as $3,805,244.
Mr Joseph last month highlighted the case of one member of the public who was tricked into investing more than $10,000 through a bogus “hyperfund Investment” scam.
He advised the public to be wary of companies that asked them to recruit others and appealed to people not to divulge personal details online without properly identification of those who requested the information.
He added: “Be suspicious – if it sounds too good to be true, it more often than not usually is.”