Scammers stole $2.3 billion in "business email compromise" attacks, FBI reports

Businesses around the world have lost billions of dollars over the past few years to an increasingly popular internet scam in which criminals pose as company executives, and send faked emails to their staff ordering subordinates to transfer money into financial accounts controlled by the scammers. That's all according to an FBI alert issued this week.

The FBI says that losses from these "business email compromise" scams added up to over $2.3 billion from October 2013 through February of this year. The agency claims to have documented scams of this kind affecting 17,642 businesses of varying sizes in 79 countries around the world. The FBI alert was posted today on the website for its Phoenix bureau.

"It's a low-risk, high-reward crime. It's going to continue to get worse before it gets better," a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan told Reuters.

The FBI's alert said that fraudsters go to great lengths to spoof company email accounts and use other methods to trick employees into believing that they are receiving money-transfer requests from CEOs, corporate attorneys or trusted vendors.

"They research employees who manage money and use language specific to the company they are targeting, then they request a wire fraud transfer using dollar amounts that lend legitimacy," the alert said.

It said they often target businesses that work with foreign suppliers or regularly perform wire transfers. The size of the losses vary widely from case to case.

"Cyber fraudsters reap $2.3 billion through email wire-transfer scams" [Reuters]