FBI: Business E-Mail Compromise Scams Increasing Dramatically


The Boston Division of the FBI has warned of a significant increase in BECs or business e-mail compromises that are targeting businesses of all sizes and types, resulting in massive financial losses within Boston and other cities.

Alarmingly, the FBI reports global figures of over $3.1 billion in actual and attempted losses due to BECs since October 2013.

In the Boston Division specifically, the FBI reports approximately 379 victims from a number of neighboring states including Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts with reported losses totaling nearly $33 million. These losses range from $500 all the way to $5.9 million. On average, the loss incurred per scam totals a staggering $90,000. So far, the FBI Boston Division has successfully aided in returning approximately $13 million, with millions more in the process of being returned after being frozen.

Harold H. Shaw, the special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division stated:

The BEC scam is one of the fastest growing schemes we’ve seen over the past few years. The perpetrators leave a long wake of financial and emotional damage, stealing money from small businesses – leaving them unable to pay bills; and from families in the process of buying a home, all but erasing their dreams of home ownership.

The scammers take extensive measures to deploy social engineering ploys in assuming the identity of a CEO or an executive with authority, or a trusted vendor, while spoofing company emails.

More pointedly, cybercriminal scammers research employees who are typically involved in the finance department, using language specific to the company they are targeting before requesting a wire transfer. Some common recipients of BEC scams include accountants, real estate agents, title companies, attorneys in the thick of real estate transactions, bookkeepers and other financial officers.

Criminals have also begun using malware to infiltrate company networks, enabling them with access to legitimate e-mail conversations about invoices and billing. This information is then used to their favor when requesting a fraudulent wire transfer.

The FBI added that the BEC scam is also linked to other forms of fraud such as lottery, employment, rental scams and more. A majority of the victims of these scams are typically based in the United States and are unknowingly recruited to transfer money illegally on behalf of the cybercriminals.

Special agent Shaw recommends vigilance while dealing with e-mail communications.

He stated:

As devastating as this crime is, it’s equally easy to thwart. We must all develop the habit of verifying the authenticity of e-email requests to send money. The best way to do this is through in-person conversations ort using a known telephone number.

Image credit: Wikimedia.