How Advanced-fee fraud gangs operate: A lesson in criminology

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The Inquisitor
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How Advanced-fee fraud gangs operate: A lesson in criminology

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Unread post by The Inquisitor » Mon Aug 26, 2019 12:18 pm

At this moment in time, there are a number of articles on this website which outlines how various scams work (EG: gold license scams, red mercury, black money, petscams) and also ad-hoc issues pertaining to how money laundering operates, which is a cog but in its rightly deserved seperate sphere. However, there is no publicly available literature on how the advanced-fee fraud gangs themselves operate. I have enclosed a diagram below which provides a basic "shape" as to how these scams operate and the delegation of power from gang leaders to subordinates.

Image

Active Players

Bosses

The bosses (denoted at the top of the diagram), affectionately known as "ogas" by other scammers in pidgin English, run the scam operations. They hold the monetary means to run the operation. Ogas interact with a number of key stakeholders including "faker makers" (web developers), mules (collecting and laundering the cash on behalf of the ogas) and their employees (known in pidgin as "guymen" or "sakawa boys" in Ghana). The bosses are typically located in the country that the scam originates from (which makes the prosecution process extremely hard) and are responsible for paying the "faker makers" to create tens or hundreds of websites at any one time depending on the scam, running a network of mules to collect payment and finally providing payment information to the employees (whether that is by bank wire, Zelle, Moneygram, Western Union etc). In some cases, the employees will hand over the deal to their bosses to seal the deal given that these individuals are the most experienced at scamming.

Employees
Below the bosses, we have an example of two employees. These individuals are portrayed as such because they do the "heavy lifting" and the hard graft for their bosses. They respond to victims and manage this relationship, using every opportunity to push the victim for payment. However, it is important to note that whilst I use the term "employees", they are largely independent and often pick the best oga for the job based on family connections, past successes, lifestyle portrayal on social media (the scammers want a slice of that gold Lamborghini they see on their Facebook!). If their scamming formats are successful and they can gain the "brand reputation" in their local community, one day they will be promoted into ogas once their network improves.

Underlings
At the bottom of the pyramid there are "underlings". They are typically recruited on Facebook groups by ogas and their employees posing with large amounts of cash and the flash lifestyles. Their role is simple, typically they will spam out thousands of snail-mail formats or internet spam advertising a fake website. They are often young adults or older children looking for a quick pay day.

Facilitating Players

Faker Makers
The faker makers, demonstrated by the double headed arrow next to the ogas at the top of the pyramid, are paid by the ogas (or indeed sometimes are the ogas themselves) and assist the operation with the technical know-how and expertise required in return for cash. Increasingly, they are very well equipped for the task at hand having graduated with programming or skilled IT degrees. They are paid for a number of responsibilities including: creating the website, registering the domains, hosting, SOA, administration and generally anything related to supporting the website itself. We have a whole subforum relating to these individuals and their malicious practices - viewforum.php?f=73. Sometimes if a web developer has only overlooked the production of 1 fake shipping site on behalf of a scammer, this demonstrates passive facilitation. Increasingly, however, highlighted in the cases on the subforum are faker makers with tens or hundreds of websites which are systematically being created on behalf of the scammers. This is active facilitation of fraud.

Mules
Mules, denoted by the... mule, are responsible for collecting cash and laundering the money on behalf of ogas. Sometimes, they are planted by the ogas (EG: with student visas) into the country that the geographical area that the ogas is targeting where they collect payments from victims and buy products with the cash to launder back to the country of origin (see viewtopic.php?f=10&t=6612 for more information on how scammers launder cash). I have, however, added this as a facilitation because scammers are increasingly targeting unknowing students and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to act as mules. These tactics involve making the mule believe they are participating in a "mystery shopping" job or that they are being employed as a delivery agent to recieve/send money and goods on behalf of their "employer".

Whilst this information acts as the first model of advanced-fee fraud, it is by no means comprehensive and will need updating as the scams themselves become more elaborate. One thing is clear though, which is that advanced-fee fraud is elaborate and the gangs span national boundaries and in many cases, continents!



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