WARNING: If you receive a request to transfer $81 million from your bank account at your local branch of the Bangladesh Bank, it is probably a scam, and you should immediately alert authorities.
In this case, the idiot is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Apparently, one day in February, the New York Fed received 35 requests for transfers from the Bangladesh Bank account. Such requests come through a system called SWIFT, which is described as “the first line of defense against fraudulent wire transfers.” Judging from what transpired, Taylor Swift would have been a better first line of defense. And there definitely needs to be a much better second line of defense.
All 35 requests were denied due to formatting errors. This is similar to when you try to transfer money using a mobile app but you can’t get into your account because the password is case sensitive and you forgot that you used a capital P in your password, Password.
The 35 requests were then resubmitted with the formatting errors corrected. The New York Fed rejected 30 of them for other technical issues (possibly, the thieves forgot the answer they had provided for their security question, “What was your favorite song in 2004?”).
Five requests, totaling $101 million, were approved, even though they were from individual recipients (a rarity for Bangladesh’s central bank), and the individuals’ names appeared repeatedly on the 35 original requests.
I don’t know the technicalities of international banking, but it’s possible that the fact that the transfers were going to a casino in the Phillippines should have raised some red flags, too.
Anyway, one of the remaining five requests, for $20 million, was then denied because the word “foundation” was spelled incorrectly. I’m assuming this request had come from the “Fakey McScamname Fundation.”
So the New York Fed is in some deep monetary manure. The Bangladesh Bank may ask for its $81 million back, not to mention a new debit card. And the U.S. House of Representatives Science Committee informed the New York Fed in a letter recently that it is launching a probe into its handling of the transfer requests.
This obviously raises an important question: There’s a House Science Committee?
Well, actually, it’s the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. It consists of 39 of our most scientifically-minded representatives, many of whom have voted consistently against stem cell research.
They have a pretty full schedule, too, with hearings on subjects ranging from “Unlocking the Secrets of the Universe: Gravitational Waves” to “Examining EPA’s Predetermined Efforts to Block the Pebble Mine.” You may think that a group of our congresspeople would not have the qualifications to understand such diverse topics, but let me remind you that a great many of the committee’s members have degrees in political science. (And, by the way, in case you’re wondering why somebody would want to dig up a bunch of small rocks, “pebble mining” has something to do with finding copper in Alaska, probably to some devastating environmental effect, although I’m only guessing that because the website of The Pebble Partnership goes out of its way to tell us that digging up enough rocks that are 1% copper by volume in order to get enough copper to make the digging worthwhile won’t affect the environment.)
Where was I?
Right, the $81 million I just saved you from losing to a cyberscam.
In conclusion, you’ll be safe from such phishing if you just take these few precautions:
- If you get a series of emails requesting that you transfer varying amounts from your Bangladesh Bank account to a casino in the Phillippines, do not click on the link in the email. Instead, go to the Bangladesh Bank’s website, www.bb.org.bd/, and log into your account while wondering why your bank’s website has the “.org” suffix usually reserved for non-profits.
- Do not transfer all $81 million at once. Transfer, say, $5 million first and see what happens with that before sending the rest.
- If the requests for transfers contain formatting or spelling errors, ask for them to be corrected before sending the money.
- If you’re not totally sure about the request, send the money instead to the Mark Hallen Clearinghouse for Questionable Financial Transactions and we’ll see to it that your funds disappear in a highly efficient manner.
See you soon.