Police say a growing number of workers are falling for a disturbing new money-transfer fraud
Workers are falling for a new email scam in which fraudsters impersonate a senior member of their company to trick them into transferring money, according to police intelligence.
Financial Fraud Action UK has warned that conmen have started carefully targeting individuals by sending them emails which appear to be from their senior colleagues such as the finance director or chief executive.
The ruse is part of a wave of cyber crime to sweep the UK this year.
According to the latest UK crime figures, overall crime in the UK doubled to 11.6 million last year because for the first time the number included online crimes which totalled 7.6 million.
The sharp rise in the headline figures is due to the inclusion of an estimated for the first time.
The fraudsters use software which manipulates the characteristics of an email, including the sender address, so that it looks genuine. This means the spoof email appears in the recipient’s inbox in just the same way as a regular email from the same contact.
The email requests that an urgent payment is made outside of normal procedures, often giving a pressing reason for needing the money, such as the need to secure an important contract.
But the account to which the payment is made is in fact controlled by the fraudster. Upon receipt of the funds, the money is then quickly withdrawn and the victim is unlikely to ever see their money again.
Action Fraud’s intelligence also found fraudsters have also hacked the genuine email accounts of senior staff before sending the fraudulent emails.
Criminals use publicly available information – such as Facebook, Twitter and Companies House – to gain knowledge of target companies, such as the names of senior staff.
Katy Worobec, director of Financial Fraud Action UK, said: “Fraudsters will do all they can to make these scam emails look genuine, so it’s important for businesses to be alert. While an urgent request from the boss might naturally prompt a swift response, it should in fact be a warning sign of a potential scam. That’s why it’s vital that finance teams carefully check any unusual demands for payment through an alternative method, such as over the phone or face to face, before making the payment.”
How to avoid this scam
• Always check any unusual payment requests directly, ideally in person or by telephone, to confirm the instruction is genuine. Do not use contact details from the email.
• Establish a documented internal process for requesting and authorising all payments and be suspicious of any request to make a payment outside of the company’s standard process.
• Be cautious about any unexpected emails which request urgent bank transfers, even if the message appears to have originated from someone from your own organisation.
• Ensure email passwords are robust.
• Consider whether the email contains unusual language or is written in different style to other emails from the sender.
This article was written by Katie Morley from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.