UK businesses warned of new spoof email scam

“Whale” fraud warning issued.
Businesses are being warned of a new email scam in which fraudsters impersonate a senior member of their company to deceive staff into transferring money. The scam involves a criminal sending an email to a member of staff in a company’s finance department which appears to be from a senior colleague, such as the finance director or chief executive, according to intelligence reported to Financial Fraud Action UK.
Fraudsters use software which manipulates the characteristics of an email, including the sender address, so that it looks genuine. This means the spoof email appears in the recipient’s inbox in just the same way as a regular email from the same contact.
The email requests that an urgent payment is made outside of normal procedures, often giving a pressing reason such as the need to secure an important contract.
However, the account to which the payment is made is in fact controlled by the fraudster. Upon receipt of the funds, the money is then quickly withdrawn.
Fraudsters have also hacked the genuine email accounts of senior staff, often on web-based services, before sending the fraudulent emails.
Criminals use publically available information to gain knowledge of target companies, such as the names of senior staff.
Advice on avoiding this scam:
Always check any unusual payment requests directly, ideally in person or by telephone, to confirm the instruction is genuine. Do not use contact details from the email.
Establish a documented internal process for requesting and authorising all payments and be suspicious of any request to make a payment outside of the company’s standard process.
Be cautious about any unexpected emails which request urgent bank transfers, even if the message appears to have originated from someone from your own organisation.
Ensure email passwords are robust.
Consider whether the email contains unusual language or is written in different style to other emails from the sender.
Katy Worobec, Director of Financial Fraud Action UK, said:
“Fraudsters will do all they can to make these scam emails look genuine, so it’s important for businesses to be alert. While an urgent request from the boss might naturally prompt a swift response, it should in fact be a warning sign of a potential scam.
That’s why it’s vital that finance teams carefully check any unusual demands for payment through an alternative method, such as over the phone or face to face, before making the payment.”



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