A Nigerian citizen living in North Carolina has been charged in connection with phishing scam where some of the victims were employees of the Glastonbury and Groton public schools.
Daniel Adekunle Ojo, 33, was charged with fraud and identity theft offenses on Thursday after an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service along with United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut.
The arrest of Ojo comes after “phishing” emails were sent to schools in Connecticut this year. In February 2017, a payroll employee at Glastonbury Public received an email from who she thought was a fellow payroll. The employee "responded by sending copies of the W-2 information for approximately 1,600 Glastonbury Public Schools employees."
Following the response, about "122 suspicious Forms 1040 were filed electronically with the IRS in the names of victims of the Glastonbury phishing scheme." The returns claimed tax refunds totaling $596,897. In total, six returns were processed and "$36,926 in fraudulently-obtained funds were electronically deposited into various bank accounts."
In March 2017, the phishing scam last compromised tax information for all 1,300 employees with Groton Public Schools. The Groton School District said someone pretending to be the superintendent sent an email to the business office requesting information on personnel W-2 forms.
Following the response, about "66 suspicious Forms 1040 were filed electronically with the IRS in the names of victims of the Groton phishing scheme." The returns claimed tax refunds totaling $364,188. No returns were "processed by the IRS because they were flagged as being part of an identity theft scheme, and no money was released in connection with the returns."
The Bloomington Independent School District in Bloomington, Minnesota was also impacted by this phishing scam.
Authorities said Ojo entered the United States on a visitor’s visa on May 3, 2016, and failed to depart on his scheduled departure date of June 8, 2016. Ojo was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly said cybercriminals "are becoming increasingly cunning in exploiting technology to steal identifying information from unwitting victims."
“Fortunately, our cyber investigators are skilled at cracking these crimes and catching these fraudsters. To help avoid becoming a victim, always remember when you click on a link or send an email, check – and then double check – that the link you’re being asked to open, or the email address you are responding to, is authentic. A single mistake can lead to a lot of misery. I commend the FBI cybercrime squad and IRS for quickly bringing this individual to justice. This investigation is ongoing," Daly said in a statement on Friday.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Ferrick said the goal of cybercriminals is to "steal personal information for financial gain."
This case is particularly disturbing due to the methods used and the targeted victims. Cybercrimes are on the rise so we need corporations and the general public to be cognizant of their day to day computer use and vulnerabilities. We will continue to utilize our best resources and top law enforcement personal to bring cybercriminals to justice," Ferrick said in a statement on Friday.
Joel P. Garland, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation in New England, said investigating identity theft and refund fraud is a top priority for IRS Criminal Investigation."
“Stealing identities and filing false tax returns is a serious crime that harms innocent taxpayers. This arrest, in cooperation with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office, should serve as a strong warning to those who are considering similar conduct. Law enforcement will aggressively pursue cyber-criminals who undermine the integrity of the U.S. tax system," Joel P. Garland, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation in New England," Garland said in a statement on Friday.
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