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Federal computer crime can make a victim seem like an accomplice

Although the Internet has made life a lot better for many people, it has also resulted in criminals becoming more creative. Internet schemes are a dime a dozen. While many of these schemes are obvious and Internet users can easily protect themselves from them, there are other schemes that are much more subtle. One elaborate scheme in particular can make unsuspecting Internet users seem like accomplices and end up facing federal computer crime charges even though, in reality, they are the victims.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the "purchase order fraud" scheme began as a way to defraud stores that sell office supplies. However, using telephone and online social engineering skills, cybercriminals from Nigeria are able to use Internet users as accomplices. The plot starts off with a website that has a similar domain name as a popular company or university. The website also has similar email domains as well as telephone area codes. This is accomplished by using a "spoofing" technique.

Next, posers gather information to get an organization's purchasing account. Using falsified documents, products are then ordered with a 30-day credit. This arrangement works for vendors because legitimate organizations that are being spoofed have good credit standing. When the orders are secured, the victim becomes an unknowing accomplice. An Oregon resident who works online at home or is a warehouse owner can receive the shipment and will be instructed to re-ship the order to Nigeria. In the process, the legitimate institution that was spoofed will be billed for the purchase.

According to the FBI, approximately 250 store owners have experienced roughly 400 incidents of this kind of Internet crime. Almost $5 million in goods has been stolen because of successful attempts. Oregon residents who become involved in such a scheme unknowingly may face federal criminal charges. An aggressive criminal defense may help an Oregon resident to prove that the person was a victim and not an accomplice.

Source: Fbi.gov, "Cyber Crime," Accessed on Oct. 27, 2014

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