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Email Scammers are Getting Better at Executing Old Tricks

Email scams were once awkward cash grabs riddled with typos written by non-native English speakers, but that is no longer the case, federal officials say.

Email scams have become complex frauds costing individuals and American businesses billions of dollars a year, according to reports.

In a recent high-profile incident, “Shark Tank” star Barbara Corcoran lost nearly $400,000 to scammers. The criminals “spoofed” or imitated her assistant’s email address by misspelling it by one letter.

“Now the actors involved are a lot more sophisticated, and share intelligence and organized networks,” Michael Driscoll said to the Wall Street Journal. Driscoll is a special agent in charge of the cyber-and-counterintelligence division of the FBI’s New York office. 

Over the past five years, estimated losses from scams called business-email compromises have soared. Estimated annual losses topped $1.7 billion in 2019 up from $1.2 billion in 2018, according to data published by the FBI.

The number of complaints the bureau received for email-account compromises rose by more than 3,400 between 2018 and 2019, according to the data.

Another trend, criminals are also shifting to the actual hacking of email accounts in place of using spoofed emails, according to experts. Once an email account gets hacked, the scammers have full access to correspondence, contacts, and calendars.

“The email gets hacked, and the bad guys can step into the email threads,” Edward McAndrew, a former federal cybercrime prosecutor, told the WSJ. “This is no longer a situation where some person who wasn’t paying close attention got duped.”

Read more at WSJ.com (subscription may be required).

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