Dan Taft

Global Cyber Criminals Are Getting Caught by Background Checks

Atlanta fraudster may have been stopped in his tracks by a background report.

Global Cyber Criminals Are Getting Caught by Background Checks

ATLANTA – The D.O.J. (United States Department of Justice) is reporting that Christian Akhatsegbe, an Atlanta cyber criminal with a penchant for online fraud, has been arraigned on federal charges of wire and computer fraud conspiracy, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

Now victims are wondering, “could a simple background report have saved me from being a victim of these heinous crimes?” When it comes to preventing identity theft, the answer is likely yes. Akhatsegbe was running a multi-million-dollar cyber-fraud scheme, using well-worn tactics like phishing (through email), invoice fraud, and credential harvesting.

Another suspect charged in the scheme is Emmanuel Aiye Akhatsegbe, believed to be residing in Nigeria. According to Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine, “The scope of the defendants’ alleged fraudulent conduct is extraordinary. The indictment in this case results from the tireless work of federal law enforcement and the valuable cooperation of corporate investigators and agency victims. These federal charges also serve as a reminder to those perpetrating cyber and fraud schemes, whether it be from Atlanta or any corner of the globe.”

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The FBI’s Atlanta Office Are Cyber Heroes

If you believe you may be the victim of online identity theft, or if your social security number, bank information, or other sensitive, personally identifiable info has been compromised, the best move to make is to run a background report on yourself. Look for any suspicious activity or red flags, and if something doesn’t look right, notify law enforcement immediately. It’s all about protecting yourself, getting justice, and holding identity thieves and fraudsters accountable.

As Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, put it in terms of the Akhatsegbe case: “This case is an example of our persistent determination to hold criminals accountable no matter how sophisticated their cyber fraud or their geographic location. This indictment would not have been possible without the hard work and cooperation of our federal law enforcement and private sector partners. The FBI would like to remind businesses to remain diligently alert to potential email compromises and fraud schemes.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has stated that the charges in this case show that the conspirators and fraudsters involved carried out a complex email phishing scam which targeted various companies and other entities in both Europe and the United States. On their dart board: access credentials of key employees, which the criminals then used to harvest more sensitive credentials and logins on the target corporations’ computer servers.

The Phishing Emails Were Just the Tip of the Iceberg

It was the links embedded in these emails that were the real hook. Once clicked on, these phishing hyperlinks redirected victims to a website splash page, or landing page, that was identical to a Microsoft Office login page. The harsh reality: this page captured highly sensitive email account credentials and sent them right to the scammers.

That’s when Christian Akhatsegbe, Emmanuel Aiye Akhatsegbe, and their fellow fraudsters kicked into high gear. With these stolen login credentials, the criminals sent mass emails out to all the employees at their target companies. Inside these emails: fraudulent invoices requesting hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments, routed right into Akhatsegbe’s bank accounts.

According to the indictment, November of 2019 saw a United Kingdom based employee receive one of these very phishing emails. The result: their login credentials were hijacked. It was discovered later that their credentials were stored on a computer server which was being frequently accessed and held by the Akhatsegbes and their syndicate.

Phase Two of the Crime

Once the criminal syndicate had the login credentials, they sent another email to a different employee inside the company, making it look like the email was coming from a vendor the company had long been in business with. The fake invoice inside this email was for $434,383.45. The “vendor” wanted the money sent to a bank in Hong Kong. And it worked.

Now if someone had the name of Christian Akhatsegbe, or Emmanuel Aiye Akhatsegbe, they could have run a background check on them. A credible, detailed background report can be run on anyone, in minutes, and has the power to stop cyber crime in its tracks.

A background check run at the right time could have potentially prevented the Akhatsegbes from their December 2019 cyberattack, where they used stolen login credentials that they got from a Massachusetts firm, once again sending a fraudulent invoice to another employee inside the company. Again the invoice came from a “known vendor” and this time it was for $498,000.

The victim once again sent the payment to a bank in Hong Kong, then paid a second invoice for the same amount, ultimately sending nearly a million dollars to the conspirators. But on October 26th, 2021, it all came crashing down. Christian Akhatsegbe, 35, of Atlanta, Georgia, and Emmanuel Aiye Akhatsegbe, 46, of Lagos, Nigeria, were indicted by a federal grand jury.

Only You Can Prevent Cyber Crime

As of now, this indictment is just charges. The defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and it’s up to the U.S. government’s Department of Justice to remove any reasonable doubt. Time will tell if that will happen or not.

The Akhatsegbe case is currently being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Microsoft Corporation’s Digital Crimes Unit has also provided crucial assistance and support to the FBI in this matter.

For the public at large, running background checks can remove reasonable doubt by raising red flags on would-be cyber criminals. Protect yourself from identity theft at all times by running your background report frequently. Stay vigilant and stay on top of it.

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