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Instagram Influencer Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering

A well-known Nigerian Instagram influencer with over 2.5 million social media followers recently pled guilty to money laundering and fraud charges.

Ramon Abbas, known by his alias “Hushpuppi” on social media, confessed his involvement in a number of fraudulent schemes worldwide. One scheme reportedly involved a Qatari businessman who was in the process of building a school for children in his country. This scheme involved more than $1 million, but this was just a fraction of his reported fraud.

Business Email Compromise Scams

According to the US Department of Justice, Abbas and his co-conspirators stole more than $24 million through several business email compromise (BEC) scams. BEC scams allow scam artists to take control of a victim’s email account to make unauthorized wire transfers. Scam artists specifically target companies that commonly make wire transfers in the course of their businesses to allow scammers to go undetected.

Authorities in Dubai raided Abbas’s home and discovered more than $40 million in cash, several luxury cars, and tens of thousands of related files and emails related to the schemes.

BEC scams have been common since the pandemic transitioned many aspects of in-person life online. According to an FBI report, nearly $2 billion was lost in these types of scams. As these scams evolve and scammers become more creative in their efforts,

How to Avoid BEC Scams

Here are 3 tips to avoid becoming a victim of BEC scams:

  1. Pay close attention to payment details. Wire transfers should be approached with caution. In many cases, money that is wired to an unauthorized party may never be seen again. Thus, confirm payment details with the other party and verify that such information matches up with the party’s company, identity, and location. Many fraudulent transactions can be detected by confirming these and other similar identifying characteristics.
     
  2. Read emails carefully and meticulously. If you have received suspicious emails, you noticed that the emails are far from perfect. Many of these emails have spelling and grammar issues that legitimate companies hardly make. Additionally, fraudulent emails will appear to be from a legitimate company based on the subject line or sender name. However, upon close examination, the subject line contains typographical errors and the senders do not use official company email addresses. Read these emails carefully before clicking on them, replying, calling their phone numbers, or any further actions.
     
  3. Verify transactions via alternate communication methods. If you are doubtful about a particular email from another party, contact them through previously-acquired contact information. For instance, if you have the party’s legitimate phone number, contact the party there before trusting the suspicious email. However, be careful about contacting phone numbers contained in the suspicious email itself, since scammers often include a fraudulent phone number that could cause even more problems for the victim.
     

Overall, exercise extreme caution in business dealings before sending wire transfers to unauthorized parties. These tips can save you a lot of trouble and headaches, but they will not ensure complete success and protection from such scams. Continue to learn and develop your safe internet practices as you navigate such issues.

Remember, whatever it is, let’s make sure our money is working for us and not for somebody else.