Beware of the Surge in Wire Transfer Fraud via Spoofed Emails

May 5, 2017, 3:43 PM UTC

Attempts at cyber wire fraud globally, via emails purporting to be from trusted business associates, have surged in the last seven months of 2016, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a warning to businesses as it bid to curb such crimes.

Fraudsters sought to steal some $5.3 billion through schemes known as business email compromise, the FBI said in a report released Thursday by its Internet Crime Complaint Center.

That’s up from a total of $3.1 billion reported as of the end of May, according to the survey of cases from law enforcement agencies around the world, in which cyber criminals request wire transfers in emails that look like they are from senior corporate executives or business suppliers who regularly request payments.

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The total number of business-email compromise cases almost doubled from May to December of last year, rising to 40,203 from 22,143.

U.S. victims jumped to 22,292 by December 2016, from 14,032 in May 2016, and non-U.S. victims of such crime numbered up to 2,053 by December 2016 against 1,636.

The survey, which covers cases dating back to October 2013, does not keep track of how much money was actually lost to criminals.

The FBI has said that about one in four U.S. victims respond by wiring money to fraudsters. In some of those cases, authorities have been able to identify the crimes in time to help victims recover the funds from banks before the criminals pulled them out of the system.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in March that it had charged a Lithuanian man with orchestrating a fraudulent email scheme that had tricked agents and employees of two U.S.-based Internet companies into wiring more than $100 million to overseas bank accounts.

Related: Exclusive: Facebook and Google Were Victims of $100M Payment Scam

Fraudsters have also use spoofed emails to trick corporate workers into releasing sensitive data, including wage and tax reports, according to the advisory.