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African start-up VoguePay use geo-location monitoring and behavioural analysis to pin down criminal gang.

shutterstock_103173650When VoguePay.com set up the company to enable businesses of all sizes process or accept digital payments in and out of Africa in local as well as major international currencies, they had not factored death threats into the calculus. Intelligent monitoring tools and behavioural profiling coupled with steely determination however ensured that the criminal gang and its henchmen are now being pursued by the law.

“With online shopping growing and technology becoming a way of life globally it comes as no surprise that criminal elements are moving their activities to cyber space,” says Faith Morgan. “The challenges became all too real for us earlier this year when our technical team in Lagos, Nigeria, reported suspicious activity.”

A criminal syndicate committed what they thought to be ‘the perfect crime’ by slipping through the security systems put in place by foreign and local banks and credit card companies. VoguePay’s security algorithm detected an increase in deliberate collaboration between a company named Byondeb Investments Limited (www.yondeb.com) and other criminal groups. They had been able to evade previous detection and prosecution due to the lack of geo-location monitoring and behavioural pattern analysis systems.

Although exact details cannot be disclosed due to the on-going investigation, the criminals would broadly obtain a set of credit card numbers issued in the USA. These would be cloned onto a UK issued card which is then used in the UK by the criminal gang for transactions via a merchant in China.

This technique takes full advantage of the lack of cross-border coordination in fighting cyber crime. Under the data protection act, payment processors can only provide the name that appears on a card when suspicious transactions are under investigation. If the card happens to be cloned the bank’s fraud investigators would usually be unable to confirm whether a transaction is genuine or not. Cyber criminals are well aware of the constraints affecting cyber-security authorities, which include proper coordination, cooperation, cultural differences and budget issues, and they exploit these to their advantage.

“This is what emboldened the criminal gang to visit the VoguePay office in Lagos to intimidate staff, threaten to destroy property and issue stern death threats. They told us to cease our investigations and pay the six figure sum in US Dollars stolen from the victims,” Ms Morgan.

Despite the level of intimidation, the VoguePay team, concluded investigations and are continuing to work closely with the local security agency.

“Our dream is to enable honest small and medium sized businesses in Africa to grow and succeed and we will not be stopped by death threats, However VoguePay has put additional measures in place to protect our staff and property,” warns VoguePay CEO.

He calls for stronger cross-continent collaboration between payment processors, card issuers and security agencies in reporting and investigating incidents and apprehending perpetrators.

For more on the subject, contact ukoffice@voguepay.com