How Miscreants are Using Uber and Airbnb to Launder Their Stolen Assets with Cryptocurrencies
It has recently come to light that over the past couple of years, cybercriminals have been making use of popular services such as AirBnB and Uber to launder their ill-gotten gains over the internet in a highly discreet manner.
In relation to the matter, Ziv Mador, head of cybersecurity firm Trustwave, was recently quoted as saying that stolen credit card money is rampantly being used to facilitate cybercriminal activities over the “dark web”.
On the subject, Mador also added:
“Cybercrime headlines tend to focus on new variants of malware or gross negligence resulting in large data breaches. It's a proverbial game of cat and mouse, with white hats fortifying defenses and black hats adjusting to bypass. However, missing from these stories and just as important for grasping how cybercriminals operate is what takes place post-breach or when funds are acquired illegally.”
A Closer Look At The Scams Being Employed
When focusing on such a sensitive subject, it is worth mentioning that the techniques used by cybercriminals are more often than not quite different from those being employed by miscreants to launder other types of “dirty money”. This is because cybercrime more often than not has its roots deeply seated within dark web marketplaces.
Mador explained that many cybercriminals are currently operating via such marketplaces and are gradually looking to make use of increasingly creative methods that are based on
“gig economy apps”.
To elaborate further on the matter, we can see that newer credit fraud schemes usually make use of channels that can filter out laundered funds via the use of several automated systems — eventually turning the black assets into clean cash.
One of the most common scams to have sprung up in the recent past is that of cybercriminals recruiting Uber drivers and pretending to take them on a ride. Even though the criminals never actually really travel with the drivers, they pay for their trip with stolen credit cards. Following the completion of the trip, the driver then sends back a fixed portion of the payment back to the criminal.
This con-game was first detected by the folks over at Uber when they realized that this method was being used quite rampantly within Chinese money-laundering circles. As a result of this, the company stepped up its security game in a big way by the end of 2016— thus allowing for such cases of fraud to fall to record lows this year.
In relation to the matter, a spokesperson for Uber was recently quoted as saying:
“One reason it's enticing to the real driver is they think ‘at least I'm getting paid for driving a route that I'm normally driving anyway.' What they don't realize is it's not just defrauding Uber or our platform, it's wire fraud, it's serious legal liability for the driver,”
The AirBnb Scam
Another scam that many criminals have resorted to using in recent months is that of deploying AirBnb to host fake guests. To be more specific, criminals create fake host accounts on the website and take payments from guests who never have any intention of showing up. Thus, once the trip fee has been processed by AirBnb, the host returns a portion of the bill to the miscreant.
In response to such incidents, AirBnb has recently started to bolster its native security protocols and even released the following statement on its official website:
“Airbnb takes its responsibility as a participant in the financial ecosystem seriously and has developed sophisticated models, systems and processes to detect and prevent all forms of misuse and illegal activity. In addition to our own controls, Airbnb also works with other participants in the financial system including financial institutions, regulatory agencies and law enforcement to spot new trends in potential misuse and illegal activity and share information to combat illicit activity.”
Other Information Worth Bearing In Mind
In addition to the scams that have been outlined above, many criminals still make use of traditional laundering schemes such as gift cards and bank drops to circulate their illegal funds across the globe. Additionally, many miscreants are also known to make bulk smartphone purchases with their illicit money– which they then proceed to sell off for massive discounts.
In regards to the matter, a spokesperson for the FBI recently stated
“Criminals can direct federal or state tax authorities to issue fraudulent tax refunds on prepaid debit cards,”
In rounding off this article, it is worth mentioning that all of the scams that have been described above make use of traditional fiat-based assets. This just goes to show that the media narrative of “Bitcoin being a haven for money laundering activities” is not only misleading but also outright wrong — since most studies released in relation to the matter show that fiat currencies are used for more than 90% of today's illegal laundering activities.