In the past, con artists from Nigeria often pretended to be princes in trouble to get your personal information.
"What these are, are really finely tuned, sophisticated schemes that are targeted to separate you from your money," said Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud research at cybersecurity company Trend Micro.
While other West African crime rings exist and often use these romance ploys, this ring also had two scams that were unique, one involving college textbooks, the other prepaid credit cards.
"They not only would purchase the textbooks with compromised credit cards, but in most instances, within 48-72 hours from purchasing the textbooks, they would actually sell the textbooks back to the same textbook company online that they stole the books from.
"We're seeing far more manufacturers be targeted, simply because they do business with a lot of small companies.
So, the criminals can easily pretend to be one of these companies."Unlike cybercriminals in Eastern Europe and Asia, West African criminals tend to have less technical expertise. "This region is far more focused on that social con, on that trick …
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Now they use more refined scams to rake in millions.
"It would all start where they would purchase compromised credit card data. They would create thousands of American Express Serve prepaid accounts.
Once they were able to acquire those accounts, that in turn would become their infrastructure that they needed to be able to move their illicit proceeds," said Todd Williams.
Four defendants remain fugitives, with three last known to be in Nigeria.
Crime rings like this one have raked in billion, according to Trend Micro and that's expected to increase as West Africa, the region that includes Nigeria, is considered the new cybercrime hotbed.
It all began with scripts blasted out on dating websites.