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FBI Issues PSA on Social Engineering Scams

Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security FBI

Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

On May 4, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center released a public service announcement (I-050417-PSA) citing losses to U.S. businesses of nearly $1.6 billion due to social engineering wire transfer and other payment scams between October 2013 and December 2016, with approximately one fifth of the losses coming in the last seven months of 2016. The FBI defines the crime as Business E-mail Compromise (BEC), a sophisticated scam targeting businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments and/or work with foreign suppliers, and often specifically involves E-mail Account Compromise (EAC) of individuals that perform wire transfer payments. Victims range from small businesses to large corporations and deal in a wide variety of goods and services. According to the FBI, the five main BEC/EAC scam scenarios are: (i) a business working with a longstanding or trusted foreign supplier, where a perpetrator may impersonate the supplier and seek a change in payment instructions by e-mail, phone or fax; (ii) a high-level business executive whose e-mail account is compromised receiving or initiating a request for a wire transfer; (iii) a third party business contact receiving fraudulent correspondence, such as requests for invoice payment, through a compromised email account; (iv) impersonation of a business executive or attorney; and (v) data theft. The FBI also cites 2016 trends including a 480 percent increase in complaints filed by title companies targeted by scammers as part of a real estate transaction, a 50 percent increase in complaints filed by businesses working with dedicated foreign suppliers, and a large increase in W-2 and PII phishing occurring during the 2016 tax season.

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