Computer Crime Research Center


Phishing: financial agent sentenced

Date: April 21, 2006

The second judgment passed against a so-called financial agent in a phishing case in the Federal Republic has now been published, the "Arbeitsgruppe Identitätsschutz im Internet [Working Group Identity Protection on the Internet]" reports (Local Court in Darmstadt, judgment dated 01/11/2006, file number 212 Ls 360 Js 33848/05 -- PDF file).

Phishing, the "fishing for" confidential data such as bank account access details, credit card numbers, eBay accounts and the like, has meanwhile morphed from a will-o'-the-wisp phenomenon on the periphery of online banking to a substantial economic problem. Now the investigators' attention is increasingly turning to those aiders and abettors the perpetrators are using to pull off their money laundering schemes. For in most cases the phishers themselves are stationed somewhere abroad and for that reason alone are difficult to trace. But notwithstanding the many grotesquely designed phishing e-mails, getting their hands on TANs is no longer the criminals' principal problem: "According to our information the difficulties associated with stashing away the phished amounts is what is primarily at present putting a cap on the number of phishing cases," the member of the working group Professor Dr. Georg Borges explained.

For their money laundering phishers use financial agents as intermediaries. Thus the first step of the tricksters' MO consists of transferring the money pilfered to the bank account of a financial agent. The latter is allowed to keep part of the money; the rest he or she will then in general transfer to a branch of Western Union. Without furnishing any identity papers of any kind the phishing party proper can there withdraw the amount in cash anonymously. Whereas the phisher thereby becomes more or less untraceable, the investigating authorities have no difficulties whatsoever in tracking down the financial agent, for as payee of the unwanted transfer his or her name and bank account details are all too apparent.
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