FBI Phoenix
Brooke Brennan and Kevin Smith
(623) 466-1999
April 13, 2021

FBI Tech Tuesday: Business Email Compromise (BEC) Fraud

PHOENIX, AZ—The FBI Phoenix Field Office is warning the public about business email compromise (BEC) scams which accounts for the number one scam in Arizona for 2020 when it comes to money lost, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Business email compromise (BEC) is the most financially damaging online crime nationally.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Arizona reported 365 victims with losses of more than $30 million in 2020 in Arizona.

This scam also took the number one spot nationally in 2020, with IC3 receiving 19,369 complaints with adjusted losses of over $1.8 billion.

In a BEC scam, criminals send an email message that appears to come from a known source making a legitimate request. For example, a vendor a company regularly works with sends an invoice with a new address, or a company CEO asks their assistant to purchase gift cards and then asks for the serial numbers to use for themselves.

The following tips may help protect you and/or your company from BEC scams:

  • Look at the email header of the sender. Keep an eye out for email addresses that look similar to, but not the same as the ones used by your work supervisors or peers (abc_company.com vs. abc-company.com).
  • Set up two-factor (or multi-factor) authentication on any account that allows it, and never disable it.
  • Be wary of requests to buy multiple gift cards, even if the request seems ordinary.
  • Be especially wary if the requestor is pressuring you to act quickly.
  • Watch out for grammatical errors or odd phrasing.
  • Be wary if the sender asks you to send the gift card number and PIN back to him.
  • Don’t rely on email alone. Contact the person or the company directly to verify any payment changes
  • Be cognizant of what you are posting on social media. Attackers will look for things on social media to lend credibility to what they are saying and the person they are pretending to be.

IC3 says that while this kind of fraud can happen to any company, there are a variety of sectors most at risk. They include the real estate, legal, medical, and distribution and supply parts of our economy as well as religious organizations.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of a BEC scheme or other cyber fraud activity, please contact FBI Phoenix at (623) 466-1999. Victims are also highly encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov.

For more information on BEC scams and how you can protect yourself, visit https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/business-e-mail-compromise