CYBER24 Episode 6 – Utah Fusion Center fights cybercrime across borders, nabbed Nigerian prince scammer

Do you remember back when you had your first email account and you received an unsolicited email from someone claiming to be a Nigerian prince?

You remember the one. The “prince” was trying trying to get his money out of the country and desperately needed your help. All you had to do was give him your bank account number where he could send his fortune and he would give you millions of dollars for your trouble.

It seems like most of America had a similar offer and, sadly, more than a few fell for it. It was one of the earliest phishing schemes.

Well, #spoileralert, the person who sent those email wasn’t royalty and his fortune was based solely on the money his victims sent him.

But, did you know the Nigerian prince – at least one of them – was brought to justice by Utah law enforcement?

Members of the Utah Department of Public Safety, working collaboratively as part of the FUSION center began investigating these scams. Their work led them to another state, to the FBI and eventually to authorities overseas.

“It shows proof of concept,” says Keith Squires, commissioner of public safety in Utah. “One thing we didn’t want is for our investigators to get pigeonholed into where they are only investigating matters of national security or matters that rose to a certain threshold. We wanted them to be able to handle investigations of what our fellow Utahns are experiencing and the average criminal fraud activity that is perpetrated through the cyber efforts.”

It’s an example of the effectiveness of the Utah Fusion Center, an information sharing operation between local and federal law enforcement agencies. The Utah Fusion Center opened in 2007.

“To my knowledge, it’s the first time that anyone in Nigeria has, for a crime of this type, has had a consequence. Working with the  Nigerian national police, they were able to, through their own laws and prosecutions, follow up and make arrests. That’s the top of the pyramid and that’s what you want to do is have an impact on those who are getting the most financial gain from the cybercrimes.”

You can hear more of our conversation with Commissioner Squires by listening to the full CYBER24 podcast below.