Growing scheme costs Battle Creek CEO her paycheck

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Better Business Bureau is warning companies about a scam that cost a Battle Creek CEO her paycheck.

The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan says in December, the company’s human resources director received an email that looked like it was from the CEO, asking for the paperwork to change her direct deposit account information.

“The email looked good, didn’t strike any concerns so she sent the paperwork, it got filled out. Then come pay day, the check went to a place in California instead of the actual bank,” explained BBB spokesman Troy Baker.

In an in-depth investigative study, the BBB says it found business email compromise scams like this one are skyrocketing in prevalence, with 80% of businesses and organizations targeted by such schemes.

“Especially for CEOs, this is the type of thing that you can find out there on the internet. You can find who’s a CEO of a company, who’s the head of HR. This is all public information and they use that to really scam people,” explained Baker.

He says swindlers are good at mimicking fonts and emails to fool employees. But some attempts are less elaborate.

“Scammers are also pretty, pretty good at just doing it simple. There’s a very simple, low-key way of getting money out of people. They just send a bill and hope that you pay it. So they’ll send an email that looks like it’s a real invoice and hope that you pay it,” Baker said.

While only about 4% of the attempts have succeeded, the BBB says it’s come at a high cost: approximately $3.1 billion since 2016 — more than any other type of fraud in the U.S., according to the FBI.

The BBB shared the following tips to protect yourself:

  • Take technical precautions such as multi-factor authentication for email logins and other changes in email settings.
  • Verify changes in information about customers, employees or vendors by calling or talking to the customer, employee or vendor in person.
  • If you have fallen victim to this type of fraud, call your bank immediately to stop the payment and report it to the FBI. If a report is filed within 48 hours, there is a chance the money can be recovered.
  • Share fraud attempts and crimes on the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and BBB Scam Tracker.

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