How to stop email fraudsters

| 04/12/2016

Who would be the person to report phishing emails purported to be from FLOW to? I keep getting emails that appear to be from FLOW saying I have breached their terms and conditions and must click on a link to rectify. I even got two one day. Of course I delete them as soon as received but they’re irritating, same as those pretending to be from Butterfield Bank with a address.

Guess these are something we have to live with. I just wonder if anybody actually attempts to get them stopped. How do they even go about doing that?

Auntie’s answer: There are things you can do to try to thwart these annoying (and potentially very damaging) online intrusions. But how effective your efforts will be is another issue. In addition, the steps vary according to whether the emails in question originate from overseas or from here in Cayman.

The Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA) addresses various scams on its website and offers suggestions on how to deal with them at this page.

I also contacted the ICTA for a specific answer to your question about phishing. Before getting into the details of that response, I will share what the authority said in general about fraudulent emails: “Unfortunately, these types of emails have been around for a long time and will probably be around for some time to come. The authority recommends that being aware and diligent, not clicking on links in these types of emails, and deleting them as soon as possible is the best defence for the consumer at this time.”

Basically, common sense should rule is what the ICTA is saying. Clearly, however, people don’t always take to time to consider whether an email is legitimate before making that fateful click.

If you receive a suspicious email, the authority offers step-by-step advice, noting, “most fraudulent emails are initiated from an overseas location. There will be a different process to follow depending upon where a phishing, scam, spam or similar type of email originates”.

To avoid any confusion, I have included in its entirety below what action the ICTA advises for overseas email scams, and then I will deal with those of local origin:

“a) Identify the domain name of the sending party (e.g. from the example provided by your reader).

b) Look up the administrative contact and registrar for the domain using a ‘whois’ service (‘whois’ can be typed into an Internet browser and a number of options will be listed. Choose one, enter the domain name and the whois service should provide the administrative contact and registrar information).

c) Send an email to both the administrative contact and the registrar; the authority recommends using similar wording as follows: ‘This abuse complaint is being registered on behalf of [your name] as I have received fraudulent emails from email address […..]. Please investigate and advise what steps will be taken to prevent further fraudulent activities from this domain.’ “

If you determine that the sham email originates from an entity within the Cayman Islands or from a .ky-registered domain, first go through the same steps listed above. If you get no joy from that, you are asked to email the ICTA the information on the administrative contact, registrar and domain name. In addition, the ICTA would want to see a copy of the suspicious email along with why you think it is fraudulent.

The ICTA will review everything and if the authority “considers it appropriate” it will try to contact the person or entity involved to ask them to stop sending such emails. The ICTA will also advise the person who complained what would be the best way to proceed.

Thankfully, the Information and Communications Technology Authority Law (2011 Revision) provides for stronger measures. Section 90 of the law specifies anyone “who knowingly uses an ICT network or ICT service to defraud, abuse, annoy, threaten or harass any other person is guilty of an offence and liable, on summary conviction” to a $10,000 fine and imprisonment for one year, or, on conviction on indictment, a $20,000 fine and imprisonment for two years. The court can also issue the convicted person with a restraining order, which forbids him or her from using ICT services or networks.

The ICTA added that if it is determined that the email was sent from within the Cayman Islands from a .ky domain, you can bring this matter to the police for potential prosecution under Section 90.

I know that convictions and punishments occur because such cases have been publicised, especially if they involve many instances and significant amounts of money, but at the same time we have no idea how many of these fraudsters simply get away with it. Still, I am glad to see that at least some of these crimes do get prosecuted.

I also hope that everyone will work to sharpen their individual spam radar to recognise when a bogus email lands in their inbox and dump it in the trash where it belongs.

The law mentioned in this column can be found on the CNS Library

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Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (1)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Good point reiterating that the first thing one should do is check the sender’s address (which is what I do) because these Mails are often ‘exact copies’ of the Webpage of the site being used. I once had one from RBC which looked ‘EXACTLY’ like my Bank Log-on Page – The only thing that made me double check the sender’s address was the fact that they were asking me to log-on or click a link to correct some Security Error.

    I just feel sorry for the more gullible people who get taken in by these EMails as they are really hard to spot at a glance.