This scam is costing businesses millions


We are here to keep you in the know whenever potential financial hazards present themselves. Today we wanted to inform you on an emerging global threat.

The accountant for an American company recently received an email from her Manager, who was on holiday abroad, requesting a transfer of funds that required completion by the end of the day. The Manager said a lawyer would contact the accountant to provide further details.

“It was not unusual for me to receive emails requesting a transfer of funds,” the accountant later wrote, and when she was contacted by the lawyer via email, she noted the appropriate letter of authorization—including her Manager’s signature over the company’s seal—and followed the instructions to wire more than $737,000 to a bank in China.

The next day, when the Manager happened to call regarding another matter, the accountant mentioned that she had completed the wire transfer the day before. The CEO said he had never sent the email and knew nothing about the situation.

The company was the victim of Business Email Compromise (BEC), a growing financial scam that has resulted in actual and attempted losses of billions to businesses worldwide.

The scammers, believed to be members of organised crime groups from Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, primarily target businesses that work with foreign suppliers or regularly perform online transfer payments. The scam works by compromising legitimate business email accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques.

Businesses of all sizes are targeted, and the fraud is proliferating.

To make matters worse, the criminals often utilise malware to infiltrate company networks, gaining access to legitimate email conversations about billing and invoices they can use to ensure the suspicions of the business owner aren’t raised when a fraudulent transfer is requested.

Instead of making a payment to a trusted supplier, the scammers direct payment to their own accounts. And when a wire transfer happens, the window of time to identify the fraud and recover the funds before they are moved out of reach is extremely short.

This BBC article warns business owners to beware:

If your company has been victimised by a similar scam, it is important to act quickly. Officials are taking the BEC threat very seriously, and are working with law enforcement partners around the world to identify these criminals and bring them to justice.

Remain vigilant and you should be fine.

We at Robertson Associates are always on the lookout for scams like this, so you trust that your accountants will be under scrutiny with us. Feel free to get in touch on 0132 430 9018 for advice.