Business email compromise (BEC)—also known as email account compromise (EAC)—is one of the most financially damaging online crimes. It exploits the fact that so many of us rely on email to conduct business—both personal and professional.
In a BEC scam, criminals send an email message that appears to come from a known source making a legitimate request, like in these examples:
- A vendor your company regularly deals with sends an invoice with an updated mailing address.
- A company CEO asks her assistant to purchase dozens of gift cards to send out as employee rewards. She asks for the serial numbers so she can email them out right away.
- A homebuyer receives a message from his title company with instructions on how to wire his down payment.
Versions of these scenarios happened to real victims. All the messages were fake. And in each case, thousands—or even hundreds of thousands—of dollars were sent to criminals instead.
A scammer might:
- Spoof an email account or website. Slight variations on legitimate addresses (firstname.lastname@example.org vs. email@example.com) fool victims into thinking fake accounts are authentic.
- Send spearphishing emails. These messages look like they’re from a trusted sender to trick victims into revealing confidential information. That information lets criminals access company accounts, calendars, and data that gives them the details they need to carry out the BEC schemes.
- Use malware. Malicious software can infiltrate company networks and gain access to legitimate email threads about billing and invoices. That information is used to time requests or send messages so accountants or financial officers don’t question payment requests. Malware also lets criminals gain undetected access to a victim’s data, including passwords and financial account information.
If you or your company fall victim to a BEC scam, it’s important to act quickly:
Public Service Announcements from IC3
02.16.2022 Business E-mail Compromise: Virtual Meeting Platforms
Between 2019 and 2021, the FBI IC3 has received an increase of BEC complaints involving the use of virtual meeting platforms.
04.06.2020 Cyber Criminals Conduct Business Email Compromise Through Exploitation of Cloud-Based Email Services, Costing U.S. Businesses More Than $2 Billion
Cyber criminals are targeting organizations that use popular cloud-based email services to conduct BEC scams.
09.10.2019 Business Email Compromise: The $26 Billion Scam
Business email compromise/email account compromise is a sophisticated scam that targets both businesses and individuals who perform legitimate transfer-of-funds requests.
Related FBI News and Multimedia
Mustapha Raji of Hollywood, Florida, was sentenced to three years in prison for participating in a $1.7 million business email compromise and money laundering scheme.
Onwuchekwa Nnanna Kalu pleaded guilty to stealing $1.25 million from an investment firm located in Boston, through a business email compromise scam.
Timothy Scott Marable, from Lake Placid, Florida, has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for wire fraud.
A resident of the United Arab Emirates who orchestrated an $8 million cyber fraud scheme targeting several United States-based companies has been sentenced.
Michelle Graham has been indicted on charges involving wire fraud related to a real estate transaction of more than $330,000.
Chibundu Joseph Anuebunwa, a citizen of Nigeria who was previously extradited from the United Kingdom, pled guilty to wire fraud conspiracy.
A total of 11 people in multiple states are now in custody on charges filed in two separate business email compromise prosecutions.
More than three dozen individuals have been sentenced for their involvement in a large-scale fraud and money laundering operation.
The United States Attorney’s Office filed a civil forfeiture action to recover cryptocurrency alleged to be proceeds of a business email compromise fraud scheme.
Michael Knighten, a U.S. citizen who had been living in Brazil, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud.