Panama-Style Offshore Services Touted on Darknet
Cyber-criminals are using similar offshore schemes to hide their ill-gotten gains as many of the world’s ‘rich and famous’ to cut their tax bills, new research has revealed.
When they heard about the revelations in the so-called ‘Panama Papers,’ Trend Micro senior threat researchers Max Goncharov and David Sancho took to the darknet to investigate the popularity of shell companies among the cyber-criminal underground.
“Shell companies have been popular for some time now. Their purpose is clear: to allow individuals to operate outside their home countries, hide their real identities, and make funds inaccessible to tax agencies,” they explained.
“Cyber-criminals have been using money-laundering services to move funds around without raising red flags, so offshoring funds should be a no-brainer for them.”
What they found supported their suspicions.
Several individuals on underground forums are offering “off-the-shelf” services to set up shell companies, in a manner similar to that which Mossack Fonseca is accused of doing for world leaders and other high-profile clients.
They offer to set up a fake company with a named representative; put in place a “trust” agreement that this particular representative is not really in charge of the funds; register a set of bank accounts in an offshore country; and carry out false transactions to show the accounts are active.
The services also offer to register a set of credit cards tied to the bank accounts in question and set up a WebMoney (WM) passport binding these cards to WM wallets, which are handed to the customer.
Many of the underground players offering offshore services also supply money laundering for cyber-criminals, Trend Micro claimed.
The most popular offshore locations for German and Russian underground forum users are Panama, the British Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic, according to Goncharov and Sancho.
“We have not seen much user feedback about these offshoring services on underground communities. This may be because cyber-criminals who move a lot of money are already customers of these services, but want to behave in a discreet manner and so don’t provide feedback,” they conclude.
“On the other hand, beginners and other small players don’t need these and use simpler money-laundering services instead.”
Source: Information Security Magazine