Surabaya hackers arrested for USD60 million COVID-19 relief scam


Two hackers based in Surabaya, East Java were arrested for allegedly creating fake US COVID-19 relief websites that cost the US government approximately USD60 million (~Rp. 873 billion).

The hackers, identified by their initials SFR and MZMSBP, were arrested on 1st March 2021 after the police were notified by US authorities, which led to an investigation involving the National Police, the East Java Regional Police, and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The police are currently investigating the possibility of other parties being involved in the scam, including foreign nationals.


The hackers stole data from at least 30,000 US citizens



The police showing items used in the scam as evidence during a press conference on Thursday, 14th April
Image adapted from: @humaspoldajatim

According to East Java Regional Police Chief Nico Afinta, the hackers created fake websites that resembled an official US government website, and sent the website addresses randomly through an SMS blast to around 20 million Americans.

At least 30,000 people fell for the scam and supplied personal information, including social security numbers and bank accounts, which was then used by the hackers to claim the funds allocated for the US government’s COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) scheme.

The money, according to the police, was used to purchase equipment for future scams.


The suspects could face up to nine years in prison



The two suspects were paraded before the press at Thursday’s press conference
Image adapted from: @humaspoldajatim

Both hackers have been charged with financial fraud and could face up to nine years in prison or up to Rp. 3 billion (~USD206,000) in fines if convicted.

Authorities are currently investigating the possibility of other parties being involved in the scam, including foreign nationals.


Surabaya hackers arrested for USD60 million COVID-19 relief scam


These are difficult times we’re living in, and it’s appalling that some people are willing to go the extra mile to steal much-needed COVID-19 relief funds that should benefit those who are affected by the pandemic the most.

We’re glad that the East Java Regional Police and the National Police managed to bust the alleged scammers, and we hope that this arrest will serve as a deterrent to prevent similar offenses.

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Cover image adapted from @humaspoldajatim and John Guccione/Pexels

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