Protect Your Business as Email Con Artists Step Up Their Game

online fraudI’m a huge proponent for making constant improvements and tweaks to offerings so they stay current and adapted to a changing market. I wish honest small business owners were as dedicated to that process as the scammers have proven to be.

One of the newest product releases from the Nigerian-Prince-Has-Money-For-You industry is targeted at smaller businesses. Employees in a company receive an email that looks like it’s from a senior executive and it’s flagged as “Urgent.” This new ploy has been called the “bossy business scam” as well as “masquerading” and usually hits companies that do business through China. Banks in South Africa, Turkey and Japan have also been used.

Attention to details required

The email requests that money be wired to cover something like a vendor payment or other business need, such as a confidential investment. Don’t think anyone in your organization would fall for the scam? Don’t be so hasty. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the average loss so far has been $55,000 and some losses have gone above $800,000.

Nicole Vincent Fleming, a consumer education specialist at the Federal Trade Commission wrote an alert on the scam explaining that the crooks put together email addresses that look close to the real thing so employees in a hurry might not notice the small telling details. In a more sophisticated variation of this scam, hackers are able to break into an company email system and generate the requests for money from a legitimate email account.

Prior to receiving the phony email, scammers often contact the business posing as a vendor and requesting information to “update” the business’ account. This gives them the intelligence they need to pull off the second part of the ploy, where they ask for money.

Scam prevention measures

To give your small business a strong line of defense against this and other scams, be sure you do the following:

  • Talk about Internet security and fraud at company meetings on a regular basis.
  • Require multi-person approvals for any payments above a certain dollar amount.
  • Use a standard purchase order system that requires management approval to spend money.
  • Train your employees on security measures, such as calling back companies on a known phone number when you get requests for information.

When you have a workforce of savvy scam-busters, you can rest a little easier knowing that you aren’t enriching a pack of overseas con men…and women.

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Image: Online Fraud, © 2008 Don Hankins, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.