We examine how cyber thieves are hacking the world’s financial architecture and why it’s not just about money.
Crime syndicates based in the Philippines are stealing millions of dollars from unsuspecting investors around the globe, as this 101 East documentary reveals.
They use tried and tested methods to convince people to hand over their life savings. They promise they’ll make their clients a fortune on the stock market, but instead steal their hard-earned cash.
Ken Gamble, an Australian private investigator and cybercrime expert, reveals the fraudsters’ techniques and how to detect a scam.
Al Jazeera: You’ve uncovered an international scam originating in the Philippines, involving people around the world losing millions of dollars. How do the fraudsters convince people to hand over large sums of money?
Ken Gamble: The fraudsters use cleverly prepared scripts and high-pressure cold-calling techniques to get the confidence of the victims. Once they have the victim’s confidence, they lure them into bogus deals involving the purported purchase of stocks and shares that are on the rise. The victims believe that everything is real and therefore start investing.
Al Jazeera: What tactics do they use?
Ken Gamble: The fraudsters imitate large successful financial advisory firms and self-publish fake news headlines about their success. They mimic office telephone numbers from major financial hubs such as London or Hong Kong, when in reality they are operating from a VOIP (e.g. Skype) system inside an apartment in Manila, the Philippines. They cleverly mask their real locations and use very professional, slick-looking websites, with bogus testimonials, high-quality marketing literature, business cards, logos, and a fictitious company history to convince investors of their legitimacy, which is all an illusion created by clever criminals.
Al Jazeera: What do these criminals typically say to would-be investors?
Ken Gamble: Here are some of the classic lines the fraudsters use:
a. “I have to be open and honest with you and say that I am yet to see ANYTHING that looks quite as good as this stock. It’s vastly under-priced and is poised for a significant move.”
b. (Client’s name), “We’ve had you on file for three months now … I haven’t called you before today because I’ve had nothing good enough to offer you … ”
c. “Now please remember it’s not my job to sell shares. If it were, I’d call you every day.”
d. “We want to use (this stock) as a vehicle to bring you on board with (company name) as a long-term client.”
e. “We are not interested in a one-off trade.”
f. “Now, this deal is happening right now … we only found out about it this morning.”
g. “We need to secure this (stock) NOW before this news leaks out and becomes public knowledge.”
h. “We simply don’t have the luxury of time. If it were happening tomorrow or next week, then that’s when I would be calling you.”
Al Jazeera: How do they manage to be so convincing?
Ken Gamble: The fraudsters are well-spoken, many of them with posh British accents, or well-spoken American accents. They know their script very well and they understand the stock and share markets and how financial services firms operate. Some of them have previously worked in major banks and financial institutions with real clients so they have experience dealing with high-end clients and major investors.
Al Jazeera: What do potential investors need to beware of?
Ken Gamble: Investors should never respond to cold calls or unsolicited emails. If they have an interest in investing in the stock market, investors should conduct thorough research, get referrals and invest some initial time and money conducting proper due diligence. Many investors could have avoided losing millions of dollars by simply spending a few thousand dollars on a background check, which would have confirmed the company selling the stocks or shares was unlicensed, unregulated and most likely a scam.
Al Jazeera: What are the warning signs that an investment could be too good to be true?
Ken Gamble: The biggest warning sign is a cold call from a well-spoken individual who tries to pressure the investor into entering into some deal that sounds too good to be true. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s usually 100 percent of the time a scam. The golden rule is never invest with unknown persons over the internet or by telephone, or, you will most certainly lose your money.