Police in the Australian State of Queensland have arrested a man they say set up bank accounts to collect ransoms from victims of tech support scams, and funnel funds to scammers.
Queensland Police say the 75-year-old man “ fraudulently set up three Australian companies, JC Enterprising, JC Web Creations and ITZ Services between February 2015 and July 2017, after being contacted by a fake overseas computer repair company to become its local representative to receive funds from their customers.”
The scammer used a familiar modus operandi, calling people at random and offering to fix problems but actually installing ransomware. Victims were then told to remit funds to bank accounts in the town of Mackay in order to have their computers repaired. It appears that victims mailed funds to the three dodgy companies, as Queensland Police also say they “executed search warrants on several post boxes in Mackay where it will be alleged twenty-two mail items were located addressed to the fraudulent companies.”
The scam appears to have been lucrative: Police allege the man “transferred funds in excess of AU$1 million [US$760k, £590k, €670k) to a number of overseas entities” over the three years he ran the dodgy companies.
The bust is interesting as it sheds some light on how ransomware scum operate: few punters would know how to get their hands on bitcoin to pay a ransom and arranging overseas payments is sometimes onerous. But there are still lots of cheque books mouldering away in Australian desk drawers to make payments, while a local postal address adds a certain level of comfort to any scam.
The man will appear in court on August 3rd when he will defend a charge of "recklessly engage in money laundering." ®