YOU WOULD THINK that after decades of analyzing and fighting email spam, there’d be a fix by now for the internet’s oldest hustle—the Nigerian Prince scam. There’s generally more awareness that a West African noble demanding $1,000 in order to send you millions is a scam, but the underlying logic of these “pay a little, get a lot” schemes, also known as 419 fraud, still ensnares a ton of people. In fact, groups of fraudsters in Nigeria continue to make millions off of these classic cons. And they haven’t just refined the techniques and expanded their targets—they’ve gained minor celebrity status for doing it.
On Thursday, the security firm Crowdstrike published detailed findings on Nigerian confraternities, cultish gangs that engage in various criminal activities and have steadily evolved email fraud into a reliable cash cow. The groups, like the notorious Black Axe syndicate, have mastered the creation of compelling and credible-looking fraud emails. Crowdstrike notes that the groups aren’t very regimented or technically sophisticated, but flexibility and camaraderie still allow them to develop powerful scams.
“These guys are more like a crew from the mafia back in the day,” says Adam Meyers, Crowdstrike’s vice president of intelligence. “Once you’re in an organization and are initiated, then you have a new name that’s assigned to you. They’ve got their own music, their own language even. And there are pictures on social media where they’re flaunting what they’re doing. The whole idea is why invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to build your own malware when you can just convince someone to do something stupid?”
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