North Vancouver RCMP warn businesses after agency falls victim to CEO email scam

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      After a local agency was hit by an email scam, RCMP are issuing a warning and advice on how to avoid what is known as the CEO Scam.

      At a government agency in North Vancouver, a clerical employee had received an email request on September 15 from her supervisor, asking her to purchase a $500 worth of iTunes cards on his behalf. In the email, the supervisor said he was unable to do so because he was in a meeting and asked her to forward the iTunes card details to him.

      After she completed the transaction, the employee received a second urgent request for an additional $500 purchase, prompting the employee to become suspicious.   

      The requests turned out to be part of the CEO Scam.

      In a news release, North Vancouver RCMP explained that fraudsters acquire access to the email account of a supervisor or executive and contact employees with access to funds.

      The emails appear authentic, and often request urgent wire transfers or gift-card purchases for seemingly legitimate business or personal reasons, such as securing a contract or a confidential transaction.

      The emails are usually sent when the supervisor or executive is travelling (and accessing public WiFi) or may be difficult to reach.

      This scam can results in losses ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.

      North Vancouver RCMP advise businesses can protect themselves by:

      • ensuring all computer systems are secure and antivirus software is up to date;
      • all employees should be encouraged to use strong passwords to protect email accounts;
      • the sender's email address may appear similar to a real one but there may be one or two letters that are different;
      • any wire-transfer request sent by email should be double-checked with supervisors or executives—but the contact information in the message should not be used, and the email should not be replied to;
      • a standard process that requires multiple approvals for money transfers should be established;
      • the amount of employee information available online and on social media should be limited.

      More information about protecting businesses can be found at the B.C. RCMP website.

      Anyone who has been a victim of the CEO Scam can report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501, the Competition Bureau at 1-800-348-5358, or the police.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.