Romanian Scammers hit TradeMe Milestone
The criminal group responsible for numerous phishing scams on TradeMe hit a milestone on Saturday August 18th, 2007. Internet watchdog group ScamBusters reports that the number of hijacked TradeMe accounts used by a Romanian gang to place fraudulent listings on the site in the past eighteen months has now reached a total of one thousand.
“That's a lot of compromised accounts” says spokesman Alf West. “And they're only the ones that we've recorded. These criminals have many more accounts waiting in the wings, ready to use.”
ScamBuster Peter Andersen has been collating the hijacked accounts and auctions. “The thousand TradeMe user accounts identified as being hacked in the past eighteen months have been used to run 3,391 fraudulent auctions” he says, “all for non-existent items.”
The scammers post auctions for high value items like laptops, cellphones and even expensive motor vehicles, and they inevitably include an email address. “We need to make the point that these people are not running auctions at all” says Andersen. “They're using TradeMe to gain email contact with potential victims.” He claims that while TradeMe eventually remove the fraudulent listings, the scammer's email address is visible for up to 24 hours at a time.
ScamBusters claims that this wave of phishing emails, account hijackings and associated scam listings are a continuation of the Romanian criminal activities that have dogged TradeMe for the last four years. And the group claim that TradeMe's own system is helping the scammers.
“Once an account has been compromised (hijacked) the scammer has access to that user's last 45 days of trading history, including the email addresses of everyone the user has traded with. The Romanians appear to be using that information to build their database of valid TradeMe users' addresses. This results in another round of phishing emails, more hijacked accounts and more fraudulent auctions” says West. “Our research shows that the problem is increasing exponentially. TradeMe really needs to beef up its internal security system to identify account hijackings early.”
“And we'd like them to make their members aware of the type of scams that are happening right under their noses. They need to be more proactive in locking these criminals out.”
With more than 3,200 members spread throughout New Zealand, the ScamBusters operate online forums where their members can report and discuss scams in progress. They often make email contact with the scammers to profile their methods.
Details of the hacked accounts, the type of goods offered and the contact details used by the scammers is available in the members section of the ScamBusters' forum