Hacked by an Instagram celebrity: FBI arrests popular Instagram millionaire after alleged tie-ins to major scam racket.

Social media influencer and millionaire, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, is currently being detained for criminal charges over alleged involvement in a major scam racket.

For those unfamiliar Abbas is an Instagrammer known for his opulent, “living the high-life” persona which he regularly presents to his 2.5 million followers.

The FBI alleges that Abbas has made hundreds of millions of dollarsthrough his involvement with a ring of fraudsters and scammers, specializing in Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks.

BEC attacks involve hacking an email account, typically corporate, to send fake and illegitimate messages to clients and trusted contacts, typically in order to intercept or redirect financial transactions.

If you’ve been following my writing for some time, we regularly cover BEC in reference to news and best current practice, due to its fast-growing employment by scammers both domestic and abroad.

And with my experience, not only in cybersecurity but also in email hosting, I’ve seen BEC used against innocent business-owners time and time again over the years for massive financial exploitation.

Abbas was accused following a thread of social media poststhat implied tie-ins to a trans-national cybercrime network. During a series of arrests throughout this investigation (video link here), 12 other individuals were arrested, and upwards of $40 million in cash was confiscated alongside the hard drives containing email addresses of nearly two million victims.

This case follows the recent arrest of Obinwanna Okekein which Okeke pleaded guilty to $11 million of computer fraud between 2015 and 2019. Okekewas previously known as a celebrated entrepreneur, and was actually listed in the Forbes 30 under 30 before his criminal activity became public knowledge.

In response to the continuously rising scam culture across the globe and particularly within Nigeria, FBI agent Michael Nail attributes the appeal of this illegal activity to the sentiment that “You can sit at home in your PJs and slippers with a laptop, and you can actually rob a bank”

The effects of this alleged scam-work not only impacts the numerous victims, who’ve lost upwards of 124 million dollars, but also wears poorly on Nigerian relations with the United Arab Emirates public, as seen in this slew of anti-Nigerian job advertisements circling around following Abbas’ arrest.

Abbas’ lawyer has issued a statement on the allegations against Abbas, stating that Abbas not only earned his wealth through entirely legitimate means, but also that the FBI arrest should be deemed a kidnapping.

Regardless of the outcome of this case, here are a few steps to avoid BEC yourself:

  1. Keep your work and your personal email usage separate. If there’s one sure-fire way to fall into a BEC trap, it’s by sending confidential information on personal email or social media channels. Stick to the business email at all times.
  2. Use two-factor authentication! I and all of my cybersecurity colleagues must sound like a broken record at this point, but two-factor is just that important. Two factor is that extra layer of security that could make the difference between a breach and a close-call. It’s essentially what seatbelts are two cars. If you aren’t familiar with two-factor, read up here for some quick steps on setting it up.
  3. Keep on top of your password hygiene. This means strong passphrases, changing them regularly, and if storing them keeping them in secure locations such as a password manager. Essentially, treat your password the same way that you would a toothbrush. Pick good ones and change them regularly.
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