Erie Chamber Blog
Monday October 21,  2019
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The Explosion of Business Email Compromise (BEC) Scams

submitted by Pam Marlowe, Public Relations Coordinator, Better Business Bureau

If your boss sends you an email, would you ignore it? Scammers know you probably won’t, and that has helped them bilk businesses and other organizations out of $3 billion since 2016 through email scams.

Business email compromise (BEC) fraud is an email phishing scam that typically targets people who pay bills in businesses, government and nonprofit organizations. It affects both big and small organizations (including businesses here in Erie), and it has resulted in more losses than any other type of fraud in the U.S., according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). This serious and growing fraud has tripled over the last three years and jumped 50% in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018.

BEC fraud takes many forms, but in essence, the scammer poses as a reliable source who sends an email from a spoofed or hacked account to an accountant or chief financial officer (CFO), asking them to wire money, buy gift cards or send personal information, often for a plausible reason. If money is sent, it goes into an account controlled by the con artist.

There are several ways in which scammers can initiate BEC scams, which differ based on who appears to be the email sender:

  1. A chief executive officer (CEO) asks the CFO to wire money to someone.
  2. A vendor or supplier requests a change in invoice payment.
  3. Executives request copies of employee tax information.
  4. Senior employees seek to have their pay deposited into a new bank account.
  5. An employer or clergyman asks the recipient to buy gift cards on their behalf.
  6. A realtor or title company redirects proceeds from a real estate sale into a new account.

An in-depth investigative study by Better Business Bureau (BBB) on BEC scams looks at the prevalence of BEC scams and the criminal systems that perpetrate them. It digs into the scope of the problem, who is behind it, the multi-pronged fight to stop it and the steps consumers can take to avoid it. To help thwart these scammers, businesses need to improve internet security, employee training and general awareness of these types of scams.

The study recommends:

  • Businesses and organizations take technical precautions, such as multi-factor authentication for email logins, review email settings, and enable systems that authenticate emails.
  • Instruct employees to verify changes in information about customers, employees or vendors.
  • Confirm requests involving money or personal information by phone before acting on instructions in an email.
  • Train employees in internet security and awareness of the BEC scam.

If an organization finds that it has been a victim of a BEC fraud, it needs to immediately call its bank to stop the payment and report it to the FBI. Scams and fraud can also be reported to BBB Scam Tracker.

  • email fraud
  • business email
  • better business bureau
  • scam
  • scammer

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