Money related crimes have seen an increase in the past decade. This has been attributed to the recent technological advances that the world has seen. With the advent of the internet and wireless technologies, it has become more than easy to perform crimes. On the other hand, it has become more difficult for crime prevention units to combat them. Among the high tech crimes that have affected the society, Currency counterfeiting, money laundering, intellectual property crime, payment card fraud, computer virus attacks and cyber-terrorism have been named by the Interpol as few of the most dreaded crimes committed by criminals across the globe.
Money laundering and currency counterfeiting have the potential to destabilise national economies and threaten global security, as these activities are sometimes used by terrorists and other dangerous criminals to finance illegal activities or conceal their illegal money. Intellectual property crime has turned out to be a major financial concern for car manufacturers, luxury goods makers, media firms and drug companies to name a few, with the World Health organization claiming that more than 60% of the pharmaceuticals out in the market are fake.
Whilst new technologies benefit people in numerous ways, they open up many possibilities for criminals to carry out traditional financial crimes in ways never imagined before. One of the most widely used tactics employed by criminals over the internet is ‘Spam’. Spam is used by criminals across the globe to fraud customers in increasingly sophisticated ways combined with ‘phishing’ to commit fraud and even money laundering.
Authorities in USA had busted up an international racket and charged a gang of 38 people who sought innocent parties’ personal information through phishing emails and smishing (sending SMS text messages via cell phones). The gang used phishing by luring users who clicked on links contained in spam e-mails into a fraudulent website – posing as a legitimate online bank, where they were tricked into entering sensitive information like passwords and bank details. This information was being sent into the gang’s personal database to be then later used for conducting frauds and money laundering.
Criminals can use another individual’s Internet access, which would guarantee the unauthorised user a great degree of anonymity. This can then be used to get into the individual’s bank accounts, or spy software can be installed on the computer to gather sensitive information like usernames and passwords for bank accounts. Hackers with an extensive knowledge of computers and networking can “hack” into databases and retrieve account information.
In the internet world, there is a high price for this kind of sensitive information. Information such as credit card numbers are traded over IRC channels on the internet, and they are bought by criminals. The hackers lack the skills to do anything with the data they steal and the old-time criminals lack the technical skills to get the data. The internet is the meeting point for these two different types of people.
Technology clearly has two faces. While one face of technology benefits people by making it easier to manage their finances, the other face of it is exploited by criminals to gain access to easy money. It is easily apparent that people are being increasingly exposed to the technological era of crime, and they need to be more careful than ever before, to keep their hard earned money safe from the hands of these high-tech money stealers.