Client Portals

Cyberfraud: It’s not just Nigerian lotteries3 min read

May 14, 2013 - John Osbon ( 5 mins to read)

It might be easier to take cyberfraud seriously if the emails were not so pitifully absurd and full of grammar gaffes. You know the ones, promising fantastic windfalls (“you are the sole hair”), ridiculous sums (“…of $650 million USAmerica dollars”) and laughable requests (“if please you just must send us your…”).

Nobody (well almost nobody) would fall for those scams. But they are just the tip of a giant, despicable, and surprisingly sophisticated iceberg.

What’s really going on?

The real threat today is the growth of wire fraud – the compromise of identity and login credentials to move money out of an account into criminal hands.

The fantastic emails (inheritance, confirm package delivery, bank credential update, IRS inquiry, and so on) are in many cases simply covers to get an unwitting victim to reveal a tiny piece of information (like an email, first name, last name, login ID, etc.) or open a door for malicious software (“click here”) that can compromise your information.

Like all of you, I don’t knowingly respond in any way to any of these email ploys, although some of them look very realistic.

But email is not the only tool for fraud. I recently started getting random calls to my home and my office from very pleasant sounding people, posh English accent in one case, asking such simple, innocuous questions (“Is your first name John?”) and apologizing for bothering me as they tried to verify my last name, my address, my phone number, anything.  Are these people idiots, I thought?  No, it was cyberfraud in practice, and it’s organized, persistent and relentless.

Once enough pieces of the puzzle have been acquired, the fraudsters can request bogus wire transfers, take over control of your accounts, and basically turn your life into a nightmare.

Once gone, the money is virtually impossible to recover

Meet Tobey, or better yet, don’t…

Cyberfraud may seem primitive and naïve, until you understand that there are literally global phone and email banks of people at work. Like Tobey’s organization.

Tobechi Onwuhara, aka Tobey, an accused master scammer long wanted by the FBI, is a prime example of a successful scam artist. Educated, well-spoken, with no accent, Tobey and his organization will takes months to collect enough information on a single person to execute online wire transfers.  Alleged to have defrauded the financial industry of tens of millions of dollars, Tobey has just been arrested overseas and extradited.

What Fidelity is doing

I refreshed my cyberfraud knowledge by recently attending an online presentation by Fidelity (primary custodian for Osbon Capital clients) on “The Evolving Cyber Fraud Threat.” I must say I was pretty surprised by what I learned, but also reassured that there is a lot of help available.

Fidelity would be an obvious target for criminals, and has invested proactively in building formidable defenses to protect accountholder funds. So, not to worry, just be aware.

I like Fidelity for many reasons, but chief among many is its redundant rules-based systems for money movement.  Unless instructions are absolutely PERFECT and within the rules, money will not move in Fidelity. It’s almost comical, but I have had to resubmit wire requests for missing punctuation.  What may seem like an annoying, small-minded obsession with detail is actually Fidelity’s protection system at work.

Furthermore, as a boutique advisor, I know all of my clients and their financial habits.  So if something out of the ordinary happens (“send $25,000 to London this weekend”) my radar activates immediately.

Don’t worry, don’t respond, just stop…

There is no reason for undue worry about being a victim of cyberfraud. Substantial protection is built in to Fidelity and Osbon Capital systems on your behalf.

However we are all responsible to be alert, aware, inquisitive and cautious. If you ever have any question or doubt about any combination of online, phone and financial activity, it’s worth just stopping, not acting, thinking, waiting, and asking questions. Erring on the side of caution can only help to thwart the next Tobey.


delivered to your inbox


This communication may include forward-looking statements. All statements other than statements of historical fact are forward-looking statements (including words such as “believe,” “estimate,” “anticipate,” “may,” “will,” “should,” and “expect”). Although we believe that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, we can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct. Various factors could cause actual results or performance to differ materially from those discussed in such forward-looking statements.”

“Historical performance is not indicative of future results. The investment return will fluctuate with market conditions.

Past performance is not indicative of any specific investment or future results. Views regarding the economy, securities markets or other specialized areas, like all predictors of future events, cannot be guaranteed to be accurate and may result in economic loss to the investor.

Investment strategies, philosophies, allocations and holdings are subject to change without prior notice.

This communication is intended to provide general information only and should not be construed as an offer of specifically tailored individualized advice.

While the Adviser believes the outside data sources cited to be credible, it has not independently verified the correctness of any of their inputs or calculations and, therefore, does not warranty the accuracy of any third-party sources or information.

Adviser does not endorse the statements, services or performance of any third-party vendor.

Unless stated otherwise, any mention of specific securities or investments is for hypothetical and illustrative purposes only. Adviser’s clients may or may not hold the securities discussed in their portfolios. Adviser makes no representations that any of the securities discussed have been or will be profitable.

Any IPO alerts are purely informational and should not be construed as recommendations to invest.

Adviser is not licensed to provide and does not provide legal, tax or accounting advice to clients. Advice of qualified counsel or accountant should be sought to address any specific situation requiring assistance from such licensed individuals.

Any case studies or hypothetical client profiles are for demonstration purposes only. They illustrate the breadth and depth of the many clients we represent at various life stages. Any similarities to actual Adviser’s clients past or present are strictly coincidental. Individual advice and results will vary based on each client’s circumstances, objectives and prevailing economic conditions.