Companies pay out billions to fake-CEO email scams

In the U.S., victims have lost US$960 million to the schemes over the past three years

Email scammers, often pretending to be CEOs, have duped businesses into giving away at least US$3.1 billion, according to new data from the FBI.

The email schemes, which trick companies into wiring funds to the hacker, continue to bedevil companies across the world, the FBI warned in a posting on Tuesday.

The amount of money they've tried to steal has grown by 1,300 percent since January 2015, it said.

In the U.S. alone, victims have lost $960 million to the schemes over approximately the past three years, FBI figures show. That figure reaches $3.1 billion when global data from international law enforcement and financial groups is included. The number of victims: 22,143.

In many cases, the scammers pretend to be a business executive at the victim’s company or a trusted supplier. They can do this by hacking into email accounts to send off fraudulent messages. This type of cybercrime, which usually involves a request for a wire transfer, may be called “CEO Fraud” and “The Supplier Swindle” depending on the scheme used.

In other cases, the scammers will create fake email accounts that look like those of the business executive or supplier. Sometimes they pretend to be a lawyer handling confidential matters and pressure the victim into sending funds.

These scammers have requested wire transfers to 79 countries, but most go to banks located in China and Hong Kong, the FBI said.

In some cases, the scammers will follow up with a ransomware attack, the FBI added. Victims may receive an email that contains a link or an attachment with malware. If it's opened, it will threaten to hold their data hostage.

There are ways to ward off the danger. The FBI said the scammers study their targets carefully, so company employees should be careful about what professional details they post to social media. Spam should never be opened, and any wire transfers should be verified with telephone calls between the subjects.

bec Trend Micro

Which company positions are most faked in the email schemes, according to Trend Micro

Security firm Trend Micro has also been tracking these email scams and found that 31 percent of the time, the hackers pretend to be a company CEO.

The schemes most often target a company’s financial department. Forty percent of the malicious email messages were sent to a company’s chief financial officer, Trend Micro said in its analysis.

Trend Micro

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Skywatcher Dobsonian 8″ Collapsible Telescope

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Whodunnit™ Duo-Scope MFL-007 Microscope Kit

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Logitech Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?