Earlier this month, the BBB issued an alert notifying the public of a reboot of the well known Nigerian Prince email phishing scam. The scam has been around for years but the new version is more sophisticated and is costing victims millions of dollars annually.

The scam is relatively simple:  target receives a fax, letter, or email where the sender claims to be a government official from Nigeria, or a Nigerian royal family member, and then asks for help transferring millions of dollars out of Nigeria in exchange for the promise to pay the person for their help. Once the victim is roped in, they are asked to divulge confidential information such as their bank account(s) and Social Security numbers. With this information in hand, the scammer can access the account(s) or steal the target’s identity and then disappear.

A new twist on this scam is the use of domain names and fake websites to make the scam look legitimate. Specifically, the scammer will register a domain name and put up a website that looks like a trusted banking institution. The fake site is used to give the target confidence in the criminal’s description of the fund transfer in case the target wants to see “proof” of the funds before getting involved.

The Better Business Bureau warning specifically stated:

“Fake websites: The scam artist sets up a fake online bank and “deposits” the millions of dollars referenced in his pitch. When the victim starts expressing doubt about the existence or size of the fund transfer that is to take place, he is directed to the site, which shows a multi-million dollar deposit.”

Financial institutions can protect their customers by monitoring their company’s name online in order to catch the fake websites before their customers turn into targets. Recent trends show a tremendous increase in the sophistication of scams targeting banks/finance institutions in particular, including recent attacks on 13 British Banks using fake domains.

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