THE HACKER AND THE HNWI - A CAUTIONARY TALE

Identity theft, the romance scam, and inheritance fraud are three of the most potentially lucrative frauds, not just of the digital age, but of any age. A sixteenth-century fraudster named Arnaud du Tilh neatly combined all three, when he strolled into the village of Artigat and into the shoes of the missing Martin Guerre (to whom he apparently bore a remarkable resemblance); thereby neatly appropriating Martin’s wife, his life, his possessions, and an inheritance - and aptly demonstrating that there is nothing new under the sun.

 

While techniques may have changed since the sixteenth century, the fraudsters’ fundamental areas of interest in the digital era remain much the same as Arnaud’s. 

  

Romantic Couple - Artigat region, Southern France - 1529 

In today’s online world, however, in which identities are digital, romances conducted via Tinder and text, and fraudsters wage their crimes at a distance (often from another country entirely), both justice and recompense can be more elusive than in 16th century France; where the imposter was eventually convicted and hung, for adultery and fraud, outside of the Guerre household in Artigat. 

 

At Armour Intel, we find that (much like Martin Guerre), many of our clients do not realise that they are victims of identity theft until the fraud is well underway. A large percentage of cases stem from initial data breaches which could have been picked up and prevented by our most basic Level 1 investigation, had clients thought about protecting their information, or come to us sooner.

 

Sophisticated criminals are increasingly targeting high-net-worth individuals as a soft option. While corporate entities are progressively investing in improving their cyber protections and educating their staff, HNW individuals may be older, less tech-savvy, and more likely to have details of their public lives visible online, for anyone to see. Clients who would not dream of leaving their estates and assets unprotected by physical security resources, are in effect leaving their virtual back doors wide open. Often they are shocked when our initial Armour Intel Assessment Report reveals the extent of private and proprietary information accessible via the online footprint of themselves and family members.

 

Hacked databases containing the kind of information which many of us regularly input into online sites and sign-ups without a second thought, are openly available for sale on the Dark Web. By cross-referencing unguarded personal information from multiple data sources (dates of birth, passport numbers, telephone numbers, social security numbers, addresses, bank details, passwords etc) fraudsters accumulate detail on potential targets. Once sufficient detail is unearthed, they are well-armed to impersonate the victim, pass security checks, and hit the jackpot, bank account or final objective.

When the potential reward is high enough, criminals will go to any lengths, A recent client of Armour Intel’s fell victim to this kind of ‘social engineering’ scam when an assistant in his private office responded to requests for ‘repeat’ payments related to real estate investments that were being made via an foreign business associate. The associate, who was in fact a sophisticated fraudster, presented convincing documentation, and small returns were even made on the initial investments, generating the illusion of a legitimate business deal. The final ‘sting’ was a 6 figure amount, with which the fraudster absconded. Fortunately, Armour Intel was contacted in time to track the funds, and our client is currently in the process of recovering them.

 

This particular case has a happy ending, but the harsh fact is that the repercussions of data breaches and leaked personal information can prove even more intrusive and ruinous. Clients careless enough to leave their personal devices and ‘virtual back doors’ inadequately secured are potentially exposing more than just their bank accounts. Browsing histories, locations, conversations, private photos, porn viewing habits and more, are all open to discovery and exploitation by malicious actors -  leaving the victims open to harassment, blackmail and reputational, as well as monetary damage.

 

HNW clients often invest significant amounts in physical protection for homes, families and assets, when in fact they, their family members and their close associates may be far more vulnerable to an invisible threat environment that encompasses their every online transaction, interaction, text, tweet, and even their smart doorbell.

 

Crime has evolved for the digital age. Corporate, residential and personal security teams can now only provide part of the safety equation. Ransom has become ransomware and businesses, with increasing numbers of employees working remotely, travelling, plugging their laptops into public wifi etc  are only as secure as their weakest link. Similarly, in the connected world of personal interaction, you no longer even have to leave your own home to be at risk. The fraudsters, catfishers and ‘Tinder Swindlers’ can reach you anywhere - the laptop in your living room or the iPad you keep beside your bed. They commit their crimes from the safety of the ‘digital ether’, methodically, repeatedly, and, unlike Arnaud du Tilh in sixteenth-century Artigat, beyond the reach of local law enforcement.

 

Who are Armour Intel and how can we help?

Armour Intel leverages an established global network of over 18,000 security professionals - on the ground in 120 countries -providing a comprehensive range of cyber, physical, and legal services to solve complex problems for our clients.

 

Alongside a new influx of diverse businesses and industries migrating online towards fintech, blockchain, and crypto technologies, new regulations and sophisticated threats mean it's never been more important to know exactly who you are dealing with and to what extent your digital footprint has left you vulnerable.

 

We believe that prevention is better than cure. Our protective services begin with a vulnerability test and surface scan to identify security weaknesses and data leaks,

with recommendations for areas of attention.

 

If the case is reactive (ie the client has already been targeted by criminals) our experts will make a rapid assessment, advise on potential next steps, and the likelihood of a successful outcome/asset recovery/identification of fraudsters.

 

In all cases our processes and prices are transparent and the client remains in control.

 

With our support, you can rest assured that your most valuable assets are protected against avoidable harm. Should malicious activity take place, we respond with prompt action to help prevent or recover losses and provide you with evidence to support legal proceedings, or engage our own local agents to execute recovery action.

 

CONTACT US AT https://armourintel.io/

 

   

Sebastian is the founder and CEO of Armour Intel and is an expert in cyber security and the business intelligence space.
He will be delighted to give a 30 minutes free Q&A interview to deal with any specific question you may have.
Send an email to [email protected] to book an appointment.

 

The Swiss Association supporting professionals joining and navigating the blue ocean that is Private Wealth & Family Office services. 

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