Show them who’s the boss—shut down the fake CEO scam

News Release

Be wary of emails from high-ranking executives asking for money, they’re probably a fraud

June 21, 2017 – OTTAWA, ON – Competition Bureau

You receive an urgent email from your CEO requesting money to secure a major business deal. It looks legit. Sure, it’s not normal procedure, but time is of the essence and you can’t let your boss down. What if the future success of the company is in your hands? Do you transfer the money?

Don’t fall for it. It’s a scam.

In a typical “fake CEO scam", fraudsters gain access to a high-ranking executive’s email account, or create a similar email address, and target employees in financial positions within the organization who have the authority to move money. They send realistic-looking emails, requesting urgent wire transfers for what appears to be legitimate business reasons, like “securing an important contract", “a confidential transaction” or “updating a supplier’s payment information".

They often send the targeted fraudulent email when executives are travelling abroad or otherwise difficult to reach.

Believing that the request is real, the employee transfers the money—only to find out upon the boss’s return that the email was a scam and the money is gone.

Losses to this type of scam typically range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. The fake CEO scam is a growing global threat to businesses and organizations of all sizes.

Use these tips to help keep fraudsters out of your business:

  • Ensure your computer systems are secure, keep antivirus software up to date, and encourage all employees to use strong passwords to protect their email accounts from hackers.
  • Double-check with executives when they send wire transfers requests by email, even when they look legit. Don’t use the contact information provided in the message and don’t reply to the email.
  • Take a careful look at the sender’s email address. It may be very similar to the real one, with only one or two letters different.
  • Establish a standard process that requires multiple approvals for money transfers.
  • Limit the amount of employee information available online and on social media. Fraudsters use it to find potential victims and time their targeted fraud.
  • Learn more about the fake CEO scam and other “spear phishing” scams to better identify and reject them.

If you've been the victim of a CEO scam or if you have information about this type of scam, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501), the Competition Bureau (1‑800‑348‑5358) or the RCMP.

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