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INTERPOL Successfully Shuts Down $60M Business Email Scam Ring

In a public service announcement on June 14, 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) gave an update on the cyberscams attacking businesses, known as the Business Email Compromise (BEC). According to the FBI, there has been a 1,300% increase in identified exposed losses since January 2015. In addition, this scam has led to $3.1 billion in attempted stolen funds across 79 countries.

On August 2, The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) finally announced that it had made arrests of the alleged ringleaders of an international business email scam. This scam, located in Nigeria, allegedly led cyberattacks against businesses that resulted in $60 million stolen. Reports say one of these attacks alone resulted in $15.4 million stolen.

The cybercrime ring spanned Nigeria, South Africa and Malaysia, and was allegedly headed by an individual simply known as “Mike’. INTERPOL says this cybercrime ring was using malware to hack into the email accounts of small and medium-sized business across the globe. The FBI’s public announcement concerning the victims of BEC states that “the victims continue to deal in a wide variety of goods and services, indicating a specific sector does not seem to be targeted.”

However, INTERPOL did identify two main tactics used by the crime ring. First, compromised supplier email accounts were used to send fraudulent emails to corporate buyers. Payment requests to a certain account were then made. Second, the strategy involving so-called CEO fraud was used. The criminals hacked into corporate executive’s email accounts and requested that wire transfers be made.

Some of the countries targeted by the gang of cybercriminals include: Australia, Thailand, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa and the U.S. In addition, according to reports, accounts in the U.S., Europe and China were used to launder the stolen funds. So far, “Mike” and another suspect are facing charges of hacking, conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretenses.

From startups and small businesses to large corporation, fraud is an ever-growing problem. Industries considered to be “high risk” – and more likely to experience high chargeback rates – struggle to find traditional providers willing to offer them payment processing solutions. Thankfully, alternative providers like EMerchantBroker have stepped in to offer exceptional services and chargeback protection. As a high-risk specialist, their accounts and services are specifically tailored to meet the needs of each high-risk business type it works with.

As the battle against cyberattacks continues, the FBI urges businesses to keep an eye out for suspicious activities and to notify their financial institution immediately if they’ve fallen victim to fraud. They suggest looking out for sudden changes in business practices, and verifying via other channels that you are communicating with a legitimate business partner.

“Businesses with an increased awareness and understanding of the BEC scam are more likely to recognize when they have been targeted by BEC fraudsters, and are therefore more likely to avoid falling victim and sending fraudulent payments”, states the FBI’s public announcement.