GEORGE TOWN – Computer hackers have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from Cayman Islands bank accounts over the past few months in a sophisticated international scam, making victims of at least ten residents, whose personal funds were fraudulently transferred to foreign bank accounts.
One victim, in the largest single case in Cayman, had more than $300,000 stolen from their account. Several different Cayman Islands banks were hit by the scam. The only connection between the victims is that they used the same international email provider, which investigators declined to name.
It is understood that there have been victims of the same scam in other countries.
In every case in the Cayman Islands, the victim had previously sent legitimate wire instructions to their bank via email, along with a copy of their signature, requesting a cash transfer to a foreign bank.
The emails were uncovered by hackers, who used the data to make a second wire transfer, moving the cash around a network of accounts and into the pockets of a fraudster, often before the crime had been detected.
“Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been fraudulently wired from the Cayman Islands to the US, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Denmark and other jurisdictions. By the time attempts are made to recall the fraudulent wires, the funds have been collected and it is too late,” said police in a statement.
In many cases, it is the bank, not the individual, that foots the bill for the theft, though it is not clear if the banks are legally required to do so in the Cayman Islands.
No one from the Bank of Butterfield, one of the territory’s biggest banks, was able to comment up to yesterday, but the bank does reassure customers on its website: “If you are a victim of fraud, you have legal protection, which means that you will not be liable for any losses unless you have acted fraudulently or without reasonable care.”
Investigators in the Cayman Islands’ Financial Crime Unit are urging people not to use email to send their bank details – even if their bank allows them to do so.
They are also reminding banks to do due diligence on wire transfers that are conducted by email and to call customers to confirm that the transfer is legitimate.
Sherry Francella said it was clear that both the computer hackers and the fraudsters were from overseas. She said police in Cayman were liaising with Interpol and police forces around the world, as well as examining the IP addresses of the victims, in an effort to establish a connection. (Cayman Compass)