To Catch a Cyber Thief
To Catch a Cyber Thief
FBI Agent Talks About His Travels to Distant Shores to Stop Internet Scams
Agent Miskell with Nigerian prosecutor
Supervisory Special Agent Dale Miskell: "During every arrest, we drew huge crowds—people wondering what was going on and why a U.S. law enforcement officer was there."
Last spring, Agent Miskell had quite an adventure when he was invited to Nigeria in western Africa to help authorities there track down cyber con artists who were preying on U.S. consumers and businesses through "reshipping" scams.
Dale: "Many American retailers don't ship online products overseas because of fraud. So organized crime groups overseas came up with a clever ruse. They order online goods using stolen or fake credit cards. Then, they have the packages sent to unwitting citizens in this country, who then rewrap and reship the items overseas."
Thousands of U.S. citizens have been unknowingly recruited into these scams.
Dale: "These criminals often befriend singles through online chat rooms. They typically romance them by sending gifts and flowers. Then, they sell them a sad story about hardships in Nigeria and how hard it is to get packages. You see where it's going. Other times, they set up fake "work-at-home" offers on the Internet and trick people into sending them packages as part of their jobs."
Dale took the lead in fighting these scams while working at the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3—a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.
Dale: "A few years back, I got a call from our Legal Attaché agent in Lagos. He told me the Nigerian government was concerned by these kinds of scams and had created the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to fight them. In 2003, three agents and I were invited there to teach enhanced cyber skills to Nigerian law enforcement. Last spring, I was asked back to work with them to help track down the criminals."
Every afternoon, Dale joined Nigerian authorities in checking for suspicious parcels.
Dale: "I'd send an e-mail to my colleagues at IC3 with the names and addresses on dubious packages. By morning I'd have an e-mail back with a list of the ones suspected of fraud. Then, we'd pay a visit to the addressee. A Nigerian officer would pose as a parcel company driver and would make the delivery and subsequent arrest, with several Nigerian officers and I in my suburban as backup."
With Dale's help, the Nigerians made 17 arrests and seized $1 million worth of illegally purchased goods—effectively taking down the international reshipping ring. In January, Dale returned for the prosecutions and became the first U.S. law enforcement officer to testify in Nigerian court. Last month, the Merchant Risk Council—a non-profit group devoted to fighting cyber fraud—named Dale its first "Law Enforcement Officer of the Year" for his efforts. Today, he continues his work as a cyber agent in Alabama.