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Belize’s FIU Warns of Online Scammers Preying on Public

As an update to our story aired on Monday, tonight we can tell you that several Belizeans have been affected by online scammers. The process is called phishing with a PH. It’s an online move by criminals where they bait people to either give up personal banking information or where they make job or loan offers to scam other persons. It is a global trend, and now that it has hit many Belizean consumers, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) says they are investigating the reports. Deputy Director of the unit, Lin Ysaguirre-McGann spoke to our newsroom on the current situation.

Leni Ysaguirre-McGann, FIU Deputy-Director: “The FIU has become aware of phishing, phishing attacks. They have been targeted at least the ones that we’ve noted have been caught having serious consequences for the victims. They have been targeted towards customers of financial institutions, domestic financial institutions. They purport to be reputable businesses. Well known organisations and they try to contact you and convey a message that would hopefully strike at the victim so for example they might indicate that you need to update certain information with your account, that there has been some sort of security risk that you need to, therefore, take care of and in so doing they typically provide a link that you would click on and then they would ask you to confirm or provide certain information. The information is sensitive information and information that you ought not to provide over the internet or by a link like that. Especially one where you’re not trying to reset your account or anything that you’ve initiated. So they might ask you for your pin number, your password, your username, your security questions, what the answers to those questions are and that’s the type of question that they could then use to impersonate you or to actually intrude in your online banking account. So what we have been seeing lately is that they have actually been accessing persons online banking accounts who have responded to the phishing attacks. What might then happen is that they would change the email address associated with your account and from there then they would go about making transfers and for the victim of that particular attack, they obviously would have lost funds out of their account at that point but there are two parts to what we’re seeing. So that does deal with customers of the domestic banks who suffer real consequences because of the phishing attacks.” 

Deputy Director McGann further noted that persons who are looking for employment should be very careful in what they are applying for and what jobs they are being made to do. She added that chances are that some persons who are employed online could be aiding and abetting in the scam.

Leni Ysaguirre-McGann, FIU Deputy-Director: “What we’ve been seeing is that there’s been a recruitment of persons locally to help to harvest the funds that have been stolen front he victims and how that’s been working from what we’ve seen is that through social media, persons have been seeing and responding to advertisements for jobs and the jobs that they’ve been responding to so far included being a part of a research team where you’re doing market evaluation where you’re evaluating the services of providers who sell gift cards or remittance service providers. You know the ones that you can walk up to and transfer money, small value fairly easily. So you’re asked to sign up to do these jobs and you might be quoted a fee for a particular assignment, say $200 or $400 Belize for a particular assignment.”

The scamming process is just as wide as it is large; another way how the cybercrimes are carried out could very well seem like a legit exercise. The only thing is that you are being given monies from other people’s accounts to make purchases.

Leni Ysaguirre-McGann, FIU Deputy-Director: “Another way that we’ve seen the value being transferred outside of Belize is through the evaluation of a remittance service provider as I’ve said so that might not be purchasing a gift card but it might be go and send this transfer outside of Belize through this remittance service provider to this particular person with these particulars and then tell me about that process and it’s quite a bit of money that persons are transferring in that process. In some cases, we’ve seen transfers in the range of $1000 BZD or ten gift cards valued at $100 US per gift card which would work out to much more than $2000 becaus of course the companies here are doing this at a fee as well for the fact that you’re not using your own credit card etc. to purchase these gift cards so it costs more.”