Houston, Texas, USA – Nigerian Couple, Madoussou Odebode and her husband, Oluwatomiwa Odebode, from Cypress ( Houston Metro ) have been arraigned on a charge of third-degree felony theft in a Harris County courtroom. Harris County authorities accuse the pair of stealing over $38,000 from one of the owners of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, in a phishing scam, in what was supposed to be the ultimate internet heist. The couple’s bonds are set at $2,500 each and their next court appearance will be in December.
The Odebodes are accused of redirecting bank wiring instructions from Randy Frankel, a St. Petersburg, Florida man who is part-owner of the Rays.
Authorities say the Texas couple used an email fraud technique known as ‘whaling’ to intercept account instructions and divert funds to Madoussou Odebode’s personal bank account in Cypress.
The complex scheme sounds like something out of a James Bond film…..with funds being manipulated not just across state lines but with international ties, too.
Investigators say the original IP address of the email account intercepting the funds belongs to a computer in Nigeria.
According to court documents, they used a phishing email in early 2017 to trick an assistant for Rays owner Randy Frankel into rerouting a $38,326.26 deposit into their own account. The fake email originated from an IP address in Nigeria.
When Frankel realized the deposit never made it into the correct account, the team’s IT person investigated and discovered the assistant’s AOL email account had been compromised.
Police in St. Petersburg, Fla., were alerted and they contacted Harris County authorities.
Michael Garfied, known as the High-Tech Texan, says this type of scam happens all the time and was likely initiated when the assistant clicked on a fake email link.
“They are called Nigerian phone scams, Nigerian email scams,” Garfield explained. “You think it’s automated. You think there’s an automated bot that sends stuff out but there are real people out there.”
The scam links often look real and can be difficult to decipher, however, there are new tricks to beat this old scam.
When online banking, Garfield says downloading and using the bank’s app on a smart phone is more secure.
“We used to kind of laugh at the insecurity of mobile phones but sometimes…official apps from banks could be safer than going through the computers.”
There’s also an option called two-factor authentication, in addition to signing in with a tradition username and password, the bank will send you a text message asking for another password.
When it comes to an email link being real or not, one was to check is to hover the mouse over the link but don’t click. A URL address will pop up and display the link where it’s actually taking you to.
Finally, make sure your passwords are complex with a combination of numbers, letters and symbols.