WASHINGTON -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued a warning to businesses to be on the lookout for a new form of cybercrime. Called Business Email Compromise, the criminals hijack or closely mimic a legitimate email address to request wire transfers. In one recent instance, the accountant for a company received an email purported to be from his company's chief executive requesting an immediate transfer of $737,000 to a bank in China. The bogus email, according to the accountant, included the chief executive's signature and company seal.
"BEC is a serious threat on a global scale," said FBI Special Agent Maxwell Marker, who heads up the bureau's Transnational Organized Crime-Eastern Hemisphere Section in the criminal investigative division. "It's a prime example of organized crime groups engaging in large-scale, computer-enabled fraud, and the losses are staggering."
According to law enforcement sources, the scammers are believed to be members of organized crime groups based in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Far from the familiar scams, such as those including a mysterious "Nigerian Prince," this new generation of criminals does its homework. Not only do they target companies who do business overseas, they may also compromise a company's computer networks to learn language and billing protocols specific to the company, along with typical transfer amounts. This type of criminal sophistication is a far cry from the poorly worded spam scams that have most reasonable people hitting the delete button.
According to the FBI, since the beginning of 2015 there has been a 270% increase in identified BEC victims from all 50 states and nearly 80 countries. The majority of the fraudulent transfers end up in Chinese banks.
"The FBI takes the BEC threat very seriously," Marker said, "and we are working with our law enforcement partners around the world to identify these criminals and bring them to justice."
If you think you have been a victim of a BEC fraud, you can file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
NOT A NIGERIAN PRINCE: Internet scammers employ a new level of professionalism when targeting companies. They may employ standard billing procedures and even language specific to the company.