Non-Delivery Fraud: Taxonomy

Non-Delivery Fraud: Taxonomy

Non-delivery fraud is also commonly called Cameroonian fraud, based upon this particular fraud type’s origins.

Cameroonian fraud became a recognized threat under the title Non-Delivery Fraud after these criminals evolved their scam sub-sets to also use personal protective equipment (PPE) with the outbreak of the CovID-19 pandemic, later evolving it further. Initially consumers were targeted with masks, later companies as well. This evolved to hazmat suits and other requirements companies may have. Eventually even hospitals and clinics were targeted with ventilators.

Interpol published a Purple Notice about Non-Delivery Fraud in July 2020:

In non-delivery fraud, criminals promise victims highly sought-after goods, accept payment, then never deliver. While the principle is simple, the fraud scheme is often sophisticated. Criminals can adapt a well-established modus operandi to suit any product, whether it is medical equipment, puppies, office supplies or electronics.

A supplementary post titled “5 reasons non-delivery scams work” can be found here:

Non-Delivery Fraud Taxonomy

Essentially items are sold online, however these items don’t really exist.  Bogus websites on bespoke domains forms the core part of a scam run initially. This is associated by massive SEO, social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and classifieds ads or trade page entries, depending upon the items being sold.

The types of fraud starts off with pet scams. Commonly these are also associated with various forms of extortion to further the fraud and extract more money from the victim. CITES protected species are commonly used. Asian Arowana and endangered parrots are common.

This fraud continues into the drug scam arena, where anything from marijuana to cocaine, heroine, LSD and magical mushrooms are offered. Even suicide drugs are offered. Invariably the fraudsters will try to blackmail the victim who attempts to buy. Both the DEA and the FDA have alerts out on this.

DEA Warns Public of Extortion Scam by DEA Special Agent Impersonators

The Drug Enforcement Administration is warning the public including the DEA registrant community to include practitioners and pharmacies about criminals posing as DEA Special Agents, DEA Investigators or other law enforcement personnel as part of an international extortion scheme.

The criminals call the victims (who in most cases previously purchased drugs over the internet or by telephone) and identify themselves as DEA agents or law enforcement officials from other agencies. The impersonators inform their victims that purchasing drugs over the internet or by telephone is illegal, and that enforcement action will be taken against them unless they pay a fine

Forged documentation such as passports, visas, drivers licenses, IELTS and TOEFL certificates, social security numbers and birth certificates are popular scam baits. These scams are typically also accompanied by offers of forged currency and also chemicals to clean money in the black money scam.

Vehicles are equally advertised, from motorcycles and cars to trucks, tractors, bulldozers and even combine harvesters. Some of this type of fraud is commonly attributed to other actors from Eastern Europe. However, this is probably by design as the group of actors described here have been seen to steal websites and scam plots of other groups and give it their own twist.

Businesses are equally targeted. Boxes of paper, agricultural produce, chemicals, livestock and feeds, alcohol and beverages, scrap metals and tyres are commonly used. Forged business documents will be used. Typically an up-front payment percentage will be required, with the balance payable on bill of lading. However, part of the scam is also an associated fake logistics company, sometimes even bogus insurance companies. Muddying the waters even more, these criminals are also abusing the host government institutions to register sham businesses in the countries they find themselves in. Even due diligence checks fail at this level, incidentally fooling trade pages such as Alibaba, EC21 etc as well.

These criminals are also quick to adapt the scams to defraud parties based upon certain events. During droughts, farmers will be targeted with hay and alfalfa. In South Africa, where electricity supply has become an issue, these parties were quick to defraud people and businesses with generators and solar power equipment.

As such it was no surprise that, when the CovID pandemic broke out, these parties were quick to start defrauding with PPE, hazmat equipment, ventilators and respirators. Even vaccines and CovID related drugs are spotted.

Central to these frauds are fake courier and logistics companies. These enter the scam plot once the victim has paid the first payment. Typically this company will advise the pet scam victim the crate is not suitable and a hired crate is required, while equally alerting victims to drug scams that the authorities are querying their discrete parcel – the problem can go away for a price. The same company will be certifying the receipt of a shipment from a fake supplier to a victim business, signalling the victim can pay the balance outstanding to the bogus supplier, then later demand payment for delivery and insurance costs. Another twist, adopted from Eastern Europe, is offering scam escrow services, popular in vehicle scams.

Obviously money laundering is part and parcel of making the proceeds of crime disappear. Many of these sites will attempt to use anonymous payment methods at consumer level such as bitcoin, gift cards, MoneyGram or Western Union. At the business level, bank accounts are used, but the money is quickly withdrawn or transferred after receipt.

Credit card theft is also common. These websites may advertise Visa, MasterCard and American Express logos and show a payment page. Invariably the victims, after entering their details for payment, will be advised the transaction was declined, then diverted to an alternate payment method. Later the harvested credit card details will be abused for illegitimate purchases or sold online.

These actors predominantly operate from the Cameroon, South Africa, Thailand and Eastern Europe. We also see lesser activity from the United States. The actors outside the Cameroon are typically Cameroonian expats or students on student visas, many time overstaying their welcome once these visas expire. In the process they will also solicit assistance from locals to assist in their fraud.

The almost harmless puppy scam is just a small visible tip of massive iceberg consisting of criminal infrastructure that can quickly be adapted to suit any purpose or disaster to further defraud any unknowing user. The CovID pandemic saw these actors use neglected infrastructure that was quickly adapted to defraud victims with CovID themed lures. Many of these websites weren’t even showing any signs of being involved in CovID fraud and the domain names had no CovID or corona indicators. Yet on places like Alibaba these sham businesses were quick to defrauded consumers in the Far East with PPE. The fraud followed the spread of CovID, also reaching pandemic proportions, costing victims millions upon millions of dollars. The scale of pet scams on the internet bears testimony to the pervasiveness and scale of the hidden Cameroonian Non-delivery Fraud threat.