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Do you know how to spot and destroy that BEC scam?

By Sara Barker
Thu 14 Jul 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Business email compromise (BEC) scams, also known as CEO fraud, is a huge problem in 2016, with Symantec reporting that more than 400 businesses are hit by business email compromise (BEC) scams daily.

The FBI states that $3 billion has been lost to these scams, with more than 22,000 global victims and they show no signs of stopping.

Symantec defines BEC scams as low-tech financial fraud, an evolution of traditional Nigerian 419 scams. Spoofed emails are sent to CEOs requesting large money transfers. Often looking genuine, the scams are easily set up and the rewards are high, Symantec says.

Symantec has found that BEC scams most often target SMBs and financial sector organisations. The emails target at least two employees - most likely with higher positions in financial roles.

The scams most often originate from IP addresses in Nigeria (46%), the United States (27%), the United Kingdom (15%), South Africa (9%), Malaysia (2%) and the Russian Federation (1%).

One main group is responsible for more than 12% of BEC email traffic. The group has targeted more than 2700 organisations and obtained access to 68 genuine email accounts.

BEC emails are sent following a standard working week to capitalise on the times businesses expect relevant emails and can clear financial transactions. Symantec's blog says that "they will generally begin sending emails from 0700 GMT, take a break from 1100 until 1400 GMT and then resume sending until 1800 GMT."

Symantec recommends user education as the most effective protection against BEC scams. Users should:

  • Be suspicious of emails requesting unusual actions or actions that don't follow normal business procedures
  • Do not respond to suspicious emails. If the email looks legitimate, use the company's address book to contact the person directly and ask them if it is legitimate.
  • Use two-factor authentication for wire transfers.
  • If you have fallen victim to BEC fraud, Symantec recommends notifying your financial institution and local law enforcement.
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