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Deputy Director of the FIU says it is Nearly Impossible to Prosecute Online Scammers

With all that said, the question remains, how are the affected getting justice or reimbursements. Deputy Director McGann says the prosecution is hard and reimbursement of stolen funds could only prove easy if the monies are still in the country.

Leni Ysaguirre-McGann, FIU Deputy-Director: “Once someone has become suspicious of some activity with their accounts, yes I do believe that the first thing that they ought to do and that they have been doing is reaching out to their financial institution to say that something is amiss here and in that way that alerts the financial institution to be able to pay closer attention and investigate the matter. Financial institutions, likewise, do have a responsibility to report any suspicious activity to the Financial Intelligence Unit which we then would also assess and determine how we would want to act on that information. We have been trying our best to make sure that any kind of proceeds of the phishing scams are immediately freezed so that we can further investigate to see whether or not it was actually from the phishing scam and see how best we can work to return those proceeds back to the victims. So that’s the best case scenario and we have been able to an extent to assist with that process.”

Reporter: What about prosecution? What about, how do you track in terms of who these criminals are? Who the culprits are? 

Leni Ysaguirre-McGann, FIU Deputy-Director: Yes well that requires us to work a lot more with our international partners because from we have been seeing, the places where the messages, the emails, are emanating from is outside of Belize and also where the remittance goes is also outside of Belize so that’s going to take us a lot more time and effort to try and actually track down the persons that are behind this but it’s something that we’re sharing and we intend to continue sharing with our partner financial intelligence units and similar agencies to see how best they can assist us or at the very least, alert them to the type of attacks that are coming out of their jurisdictions as well. So in terms of prosecuting the underlying persons responsible for it, it’s very difficult and it’s a lot harder to do given the cross border nature and cyber nature of attacks and it’s not something that Belize can do on its own. Which is why we’ve made this alert and we’re encouraging the public to be vigilant because it’s highly unlikely that once the proceeds have fled the country, we’ll be able to return it or arrest the persons that are involved with it because of the nature of the crime. The way they’ve concealed their identity and layered it by changing their IP address and information quite frequently. So we’re really encouraging both person who received the phishing emails and persons who are looking to engage to find employment through social media or within the gig economy to be very vigilant of what you do, who you’re engaging with to scrutinise, for customers of financial institutions to scrutinise any messages that you receive or that purport to come from your financial institution. Look very closely at the email addresses. Look at the domain names. There usually are very slight changes in it, perhaps a misplaced punctuation or an @ sign or symbol as opposed to the letter A. So you have to look for those small details and when in doubt, absolutely pick up the phone and confirm with your financial institution whether or not they’re undertaking such an exercise.”

According to the FIU, persons participating in these criminal acts could be arrested and possibly charged for money laundering. ////