NEWS

Academics Shed Light On Cheque Fraud Operation

Two academics have described how a crime syndicate used modern technology and readily available substance to allegedly defraud companies hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of goods. Computer Network Science
20 Dec 2018 12:03
Academics Shed Light On Cheque Fraud Operation

Two academics have described how a crime syndicate used modern technology and readily available substance to allegedly defraud companies hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of goods.

Computer Network Science adjunct senior lecturer at the University of the South Pacific (USP) Sunil Lal said people could easily access sophisticated software and technology on the internet to do bogus transactions.

The Fiji National University (FNU) Head of Department for Chemistry Professor Rajendra Prasad, says “cheque washing” or forged cheques could be detected by closely looking at the cheque.

Mr Lal said: “One possibility is that the account which the email was sent from indicating payment was hacked or it is compromised.

“Then there is spoofed email where you can change the ‘from’ address. You need to know the server and you can literally send an email to anyone pretending to be a business company making payments to businesses.

“The software in this case would have been SPTM (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) whereby the hackers would have access to the server within the organisation.

“As long as you have an open relay in that organisation and I know the mail server, I can connect to it.”

He said people would not know that the email was not secured.

“There are ways to secure mail. You need to digitally sign an email. There will be a golden padlock indicating the email or website is secure.

“This uses end-to-end encryption to protect the message privacy, while digital signatures provide additional security attributes.”

Professor Prasad said readily available materials such as acetone, spirit, alcohol and benzene can be used by fraudsters to fool big businesses.

Acetone is a volatile and flammable clear liquid used for thinning polyester resin, cleaning tools used with it, and dissolving products like superglue. It is also used as one of the volatile components of some paints and varnishes.

“The solvents which are used to erase part of the words and numbers on the cheques would leave ink residues,” he said.

“Also, the cheque-washing would dull the area where the solvents were applied hence it could be easy to spot.”

Professor Prasad said it would be hard for the scammers to use the same pen with the same kind of ink to write on the cheques.

“The pen used to write on the cheques will dent the paper and it is another sign that the cheque has been manipulated.

“This can be easily identified under a microscope.

“There can be two types of techniques employed to conduct cheque-washing. One can be using the water bath technique whereby the whole cheque will be submerged in the solvent and the ink would come off.

“The other technique could be dipping a cotton bud in the solvent and applying it on the ink. This could wipe off the ink and leave it blank.

“The other thing to note was the availability of the videos on YouTube on cheque-washing techniques. This can be used by any ordinary person to write fake cheques.”

Prof Prasad said these solvents could be readily available from hardware stores to normal supermarkets. Police are continuing their investigations as more companies come forward to admit they were victims of the syndicate.

 Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback:  sheenam.chandra@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

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