A Nicosia businessman describes how he nearly lost thousands in an unauthorised bank transfer when his email and PC were hacked
LAST MONTH I received a call from my banker asking me about two money transfers (six figure sum in total) I had supposedly requested to be made abroad for some product purchases.
I told her that I had no idea what she was talking about and that I had never authorised such payments. My banker insisted that she double checked the instructions I had supposedly given via electronic mail and all documentation/IP addresses. Even the style of the instructions was identical to the previous ones I had made.
She told me that the payments I had allegedly ordered had alerted the authorities (police) in Germany (the transfer requested was made to a German bank) and that they managed to stop the second transfer payment. The first transfer had been executed but the German bank, after instructions by the German police, had blocked the amount as a suspicious transfer. They wanted to question the owner of the account before any money was released.
It was obvious that both my PC and email account had been hacked and I had to report the case to the police. I started making calls as to where I should report this. I first called the Cyber Crime unit who told me that I had to report the case to the Economic Crime Investigation Unit (ECIU) but had to wait till Monday (the incident happened on Friday) because the ECIU only worked till 15.00!
Not wanting to leave this unreported over the weekend I went to the nearest police station to report the case. I made my deposition and was told that I would be contacted by the ECIU but it could take a week as my ‘case’ needed time (around 5 km distance) to get to their offices!
The following Monday, and after I spent the weekend with our IT people at the office trying to get some more clues, I called our internet service provider and managed to talk to their IT head.
He told me how difficult it was to locate these people even with an IP address as hackers are expert at concealing their tracks and could have used somebody else’s IP address to access my PC.
However he did promise that they would be monitoring the IP addresses that seem to have hijacked my PC, but they could only disclose the owner(s) of the IP addresses if I could get a court order.
For that to happen I had to talk to the police again. So I called, and after explaining my ‘case’, I was connected to a very polite police officer who told me that they were aware of the case and as soon it got to the ECIU I would be contacted.
During that week I called and spoke to the ECIU at least three times. Each time they assured me that they would be contacting me soon, putting the delay down to bureaucracy.
Three weeks on and I have yet to receive any call from the ECIU.
To be honest I am not all that concerned whether they call anymore. Thankfully the German police and the German bank acted with professionalism and decisiveness. The whole amount was safely returned to my account just a week after the case was made known to me.
Thank you German police.