Trinidad PM targeted by Social Engineering Scam

The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago stated that on the 21st May 2022 whilst on a business trip he was informed by the Chairman of CARICOM that the Office of the Secretary General of the UN wanted to reach him to advise him that Trinidad and Tobago had received a substantial grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be distributed in its ongoing poverty alleviation program. The Prime Minister further stated that he was only able to communicate via WhatsApp and not voice. Also a person purporting to be the Secretary General attempted to encourage him to use a foreign bank to receive the grant but there would be a significant processing fee. Even more bizarre the person on the other end attempted to guide him towards making a substantial deposit in a Chinese bank as a prerequisite to receiving the grant.

This is a known social engineering scam and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is aware of the numerous forms of fraudulent correspondence including, but not limited to: email, social media sites, postal mail, fax, and telephone, all claiming to be from, or associated with, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The scam is circulating in a number of different languages and often includes the foundation’s logo, photos, links, or other information taken directly from their official web site, www.gatesfoundation.org. [1]Reporting Scams. (2022, April 23). Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved May 25, 2022, from https://www.gatesfoundation.org/about/contact/reporting-scams. According to Interpol, Social engineering fraud is a broad term that refers to the scams used by criminals to exploit a person’s trust in order to obtain money directly or obtain confidential information to enable a subsequent crime. Social media is the preferred channel but it is not unusual for contact to be made by telephone or in person. [2]Social engineering scams. (2010, January 22). Interpol. Retrieved May 25, 2022, from https://www.interpol.int/Crimes/Financial-crime/Social-engineering-scams. The type of attacked used here is called Spear Phishing. The attack used was specific to the Trinidad and Tobago PM and they knew how to go through his familiar channels. If the scammers had someone communicate to the PM via telephone and direct him to a US bank account this scam “may” have been successful. This is a perfect example of how these scammers are doing their homework using Open Source Intelligence OSINT.

If you receive any call, email or message like the above and you doubt the authenticity of any type of correspondence claiming to originate from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, please email phishing@gatesfoundation.org. This alerts the foundation to the potential scam and allows for it to be investigated and remediated, if necessary. Please note: due to the volume of inquiries they receive, they cannot respond to every request.

References

References
1 Reporting Scams. (2022, April 23). Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved May 25, 2022, from https://www.gatesfoundation.org/about/contact/reporting-scams
2 Social engineering scams. (2010, January 22). Interpol. Retrieved May 25, 2022, from https://www.interpol.int/Crimes/Financial-crime/Social-engineering-scams
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