To think that I know a million men named Mike.

This “Mike” however, is 40 years old and according to the Interpol (International Police), the ringleader of a network of about 40 other online scammers around Nigeria, Malaysia and SA. He is believed to be the mastermind behind scams to the tune of $60m from unsuspecting victims he cons via email across the world. Don’t roll your eyes just yet. He hacks into the email accounts of SMEs (particularly) from places like Canada, Malaysia, Australia, India, Romania, Thailand, US and South Africa. This sort is called Business Email Compromise (BEC).

He was arrested in Port Harcourt, Rivers state for crimes including payment diversion fraud, CEO fraud and romance scam. Payment diversion fraud is where a supplier’s email would be compromised and fake messages would then be sent to the buyer with instructions for payment to a bank account under the criminal’s control.

In CEO fraud, the email account of a high-level executive is compromised and a request for a wire transfer is sent to another employee who has been identified as responsible for handling these requests. The money is then paid into a designated bank account held by the criminal.

In an instance, a client was conned into paying 15.4million dollars at once to the fake account number.

Romance scam as you probably know is targeted at people looking for life partners or love online and the con-artists start asking for money to visit their beloved or something. How people still fall for this romance scam especially baffles me.

Abdul Chukkol, Head of Cybercrime section at the EFCC admits “The success of this operation is the result of close cooperation between INTERPOL and the EFCC, whose understanding of the Nigerian environment made it possible to disrupt the criminal organization’s network traversing many countries, targeting individuals and companies.”

SME owners the world over need to be more careful in their email correspondence with clients as the reality of “Mike’s” men still on the loose and the potential threat they pose for struggling business owners and single men and women on the internet oblivious of such characters could be very detrimental. These cohorts of his also serve as his money-laundering contacts, giving information to “Mike” from China, Europe and the US.

Noboru Nakatani, Executive Director of Interpol Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) advices, “Basic security protocols such as two-factor authentication and verification by other means before making a money transfer are essential to reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams.

40-year-old Mike, along with a 38-year-old also arrested by Nigerian authorities, faces charges including hacking, conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretences. Both are currently on administrative bail as the investigation continues.