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Scam targets internet bank accounts

By Jennifer Sexton

Source: The Australian
Date: January 10, 2004

Customers of the nation's five leading banks are unwittingly having their savings siphoned online, after logging on to official internet banking websites. Federal police are investigating the latest international banking scam involving the use of online "trojans" to steal personal account details via computers that do not have anti-virus protection.

The perpetrators, believed to be working out of Russia and Latvia, recruit other local account holders to accept and transfer the funds in exchange for a cut of the proceeds. Customers of the National, Commonwealth, ANZ, Westpac and St George have all fallen prey to the scam when using computers without updated anti-virus firewalls.

These computers have been in homes, libraries and internet cafes.

Tim Ireland, National savings account holder and an employee of The Australian, was robbed of $9000 just before Christmas. The fraudster's first attempt on December 2 last year at a $10,000 withdrawal was knocked back due to insufficient funds. One minute later $5000 was withdrawn. The following morning a $5000 withdrawal was rejected but immediately after the remaining $4000 was depleted.

"Rather than selling people on the convenience of internet banking, the banks should be making clear the high risk of exposure to hackers should you access your account from a computer you can't vouch for," said Mr Ireland, whose funds were reimbursed after a 14-day investigation by the bank. The Australian Bankers Association was yet to officially warn of this particular scam, but the National's customer resolutions representative, Glenn Leyden, admitted in a letter to Mr Ireland on Christmas Eve that none of the major banks had escaped it.

"The National is currently working with the federal police, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ANZ, Westpac and St George in identifying and capturing the perpetrators of this fraud as all have been affected," Mr Leyden said. "The fraudulent parties operate out of Russia and Latvia using Trojans to hack into personal computers and obtain information entered and held in the computer.

"The parties that have received the funds in this scam were unaware that they were contributing to fraud and are now working with the federal police to locate the main offenders." The National account holder who received Mr Ireland's funds and transferred them to an overseas account via Western Union, said yesterday he was unaware he was participating in a fraud until the National blocked access to his account. The man did not wish to be named but admitted he was paid $1400 for processing two payments of $5000 and one of $4000.

He had accepted an unsolicited job via email to allow the Advertising International Company to use his account to receive a local client's payment. When he questioned the legality he was told the company needed an agent in Australia.

Original article

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