A little investment in prevention can save a fortune.
That was the key message at a media roundtable held by the Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier this month, where agents talked about cyber security and crimes involving computers. They urge the public to exercise caution in online transactions, especially those involving cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
“One criminal with a gun can rob a bank. One criminal with a computer can rob millions,” said Oregon FBI special agent in charge Renn Cannon.
And when that happens, Cannon said, law enforcement are in some cases powerless to help.
That’s because while traditional financial transactions – such as wire and credit card transfers, regular or electronic checks or debit card transactions – are traceable. Traditional financial institutions are also insured, so customers who’ve been victimized by fraudsters can get their money refunded.
Cryptocurrency eliminates the middle man, Cannon said, making it harder to help customers who’ve used cryptocurrency for a transaction and been defrauded.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with cryptocurrency, and having it is not illegal, he added.
“It’s here to stay and it’s a really interesting technology transfer for all of us,” Cannon said.
There are a number of cryptocurrencies currently circulating, with the most popular being Bitcoin, which Assistant FBI Special Agent In Charge George Chamberlain said first came to many people’s attention due to ransomware scams. Ransomware is a type of viral software that either threatens to publish the victim’s data, or block access to files on the victim’s computer until a ransom is paid. Typically, that ransom has to be paid in a specified cryptocurrency. (Other currencies, such as Ehteriu, Monero and Ukash have also been created in recent years.)
Another increasingly common scam, agents said, is the targeting of business email accounts with convincing-looking spoof domains. Using addresses that look convincingly like the address belonging to a chief financial officer or comptroller, hackers will request wire transfers or request an employee’s W2s so they can steal the victim’s tax refund.
Their advice? Buyer beware.
Don’t click suspicious or unknown links on websites, read terms and conditions and be careful what information you share online – and double-check the source of the request if you’re asked for specific financial information, Cannon said.