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Identify and Prevent Business Email Compromise (BEC) Scams

Apr 9, 2022
Business email compromise scam | BEC scam
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In a law enforcement breakthrough operation on one of the largest Nigerian cybercrime gangs that were becoming a pain in the neck around the world, 11 of SilverTerrier scamster members were arrested in December 2021. With the arrest, the infamous notorious gang operations that crippled the business industry through its business email compromise scams brought to light even the wider penetrating issue persisting in the cyber landscape of companies.

With the affected victim bandwidth of 50000 individuals and companies combined, the SilverTerrier are suspected to drive business email compromise as their key arrow strategy of targeting. What began in the 2014s as a bunch of novices based in Nigeria wanting quick money, took to BEC as their entry into the cybercrime world. The syndicate grew into active groups, accused of victimizing thousands of organizations under the pretext of business email, to attack, exploit and make them vulnerable to data compromise.

While the arrest of 11 members of the SilverTerrier syndicate, following a long-term Interpol tracking is a significant catch and might help identify the past, ongoing and future fraud projects under them, the landscape of business email compromise (BEC) remains a vast ground to be mitigated completely.

This incident is the smaller picture of how business email compromise scams (BECs) are corrupting the financial and reputation stance of businesses & individuals. Muddying the water, even more, digital transformation and disruption have advanced the trail of BEC scams. Patterns evolving include highly sophisticated, socially engineered and personalized emails to both companies, and individuals, where one compromised account becomes a breeding ground for the orchestrated plan.

 

What is a Business Email Compromise or  BEC scam?

A Business Email Compromise scam usually follows an email message from criminals which appears to stem from a legitimate source, making a request. Such emails might trap victims such as a masquerading CEO asking the assistant to purchase gift cards for employees, a vendor your organization deals with, sending the monthly invoice with updated mailing addresses or a freelancer receiving an email message from the brand he/she works for, to send instructions on how to wire the month-end payment.

In each case, hundreds of thousands of people are victimized by the use of fake emails and fake email scams, appearing authentic in terms of every element, and every version marauding the people of their money and peace of mind.

 

Examples of Business Email Compromise scams

The Bogus Invoice Scheme- The most commonly affected by the bogus invoice scheme are the organizations that have foreign suppliers. Scamsters pretend to be suppliers and request a fund transfer to an account that is owned by the fraudsters. With attention to detail and a little persuasion, most often than not, companies tend to fall prey to such fraudsters.

CEO Fraud- Scamsters pretend to be the CEO of the company and send fraud emails masquerading as legitimate, to the employees in the finance department, requesting fund transfers to one of their accounts. The fraudsters misuse the position of the CEO and loot the organization of capital, without anyone suspecting until the money is wired.

Account Compromise- A company’s official email account gets hacked and is misused to request the transfer of invoice related funds to the vendors who are listed in their email contacts.

Attorney Impersonation- Scamsters pretend to be someone from a law firm, hiding under the pretext of handling something confidential. This scam often targets lower-level employees, who usually do not question the authenticity of the request made and respond without asking much.

Data Theft – Scamsters target bookkeeping or HR employees to obtain confidential, sensitive data, personally identifiable information, tax statements or financial records to create an ecosystem for potential attacks.

 

How do Criminals Carry Out BEC (Business Email Compromise) Scams?

A BEC scammer might do one or more of the below-mentioned acts to scam businesses and individuals:

  • Hoax a website or an email account with variations that might go unnoticed to deceive victims into believing the account is authentic.
  • Use malware through malicious software which infiltrates the company system or networks. The malware gives the scamsters access to legitimate email threads about invoices and billing financial transactions. This data enables scamsters to time and send messages to bookkeepers so they would not even question the authenticity of fund transfer requests and gives them undetected access to the business or individual confidential data.
  • Send spear-phishing emails that appear to stem from trusted sources to trick victims into revealing sensitive and confidential information. This data gives scamsters access to company accounts, financial data, and calendars to carry out the BEC schemes.

BEC is often a starting point to break employees and carry out a larger cyberattack on companies.

How to Protect Yourself from Business Email Compromise (BEC) Scams?

  • Vigilance is the key factor for protecting oneself from BEC scams, so be careful with what level and kind of information you share on social media platforms.
  • Steer clear from clicking on unsolicited emails, attachments or links that ask you to verify your account or update data. Look up the suspicious email, address, and phone number online to check for the legitimacy of the scamster.
  • Examine the URL, phone number, email address or spelling mistakes for slight variations that might trick a person’s attention and eye and eventually gain your trust.
  • Verify the purchase and payment by calling in person to ensure that the account requesting fund transfer is legitimate.
  • Prevention is better than cure, here comes the need for personal cyber insurance that may provide you with a cover against your monetary losses.
  • Enabling a multi-factor authentication is another method restricting the mistaken fund transfer and gives you a safety cushion to think twice
  • You can use smart phishing detection tools to get informed whenever a phishing attack is made on your device

 

Considering BEC scams are not circulated with fishy attachments or malicious links and are repleted with the tendency to evade even the well-devised traditional solutions, the only way out is consistent awareness, and employee training to help spot the scam on time.

And, while you incorporate training as a solution, don’t forget to stay vigilant and careful with what information you share on social media. Don't give the scammer an upper hand in guessing your password by completely making your life public. Moreover, before you click on a link, even if it seems legitimate, think twice about its contents and examine any difference which might be tricking you into gaining your trust.

Stay Vigilant! Stay Safe!

Related Posts
how to prevent phishing attacks
Phishing Attacks: Their Types & How to Prevent Them?
Mar 6, 2021

With over 60,000 phishing websites reported in the March of 2020 alone, phishing has seen an exponential rise in recent years owing to the increase of digitalisation globally with over 22% of all data breaches in 2020 involving phishing attacks. Google Registers Record Two Million Phishing Websites In 2020. With a single spear phishing attack resulting in an average loss of $1.6 million, Phishing is one of the most common and deadly cyber-attacks in the world right now. This has led to immense number of people searching for ways to prevent phishing attacks and safeguard themselves.

Phishing refers to a specialised type of social engineering attack that is aimed towards stealing user data and financial details of the victim. The attack involves the perpetrator masquerading as a trusted entity and will trick the user to open an instant message or an email, which contains a link. This malicious link redirects user to fake website or may lead to the installation of a malware, stealing user’s financial details or freezing the system as a part of an elaborative ransomware attack.

Phishing attacks has also been used to gain access to corporate or government networks by compromising the employees to give the hacker access to the closed network and trick them into distributing malware or stealing valuable corporate data that can sustain heavy financial losses to the company. Before coming to how to prevent phishing attacks let's have a look at the most common types of phishing attacks.

Types of phishing attacks data

Types of phishing attacks

Some of the most common phishing techniques include: -

  1. Email phishing scams: These are fraudulent emails sent to thousands of people at once that mimic actual emails from a spoofed popular organisation to trick people into thinking that it is a message by the company and trust its contents. Email phishing often includes the attacker creating a sense of urgency by placing a timer or deadline to pressure you into complying with the fraudulent instructions given within the email. The main motive behind the email is to deceive you into clicking a fraudulent link in the email that will redirect to a fraudulent website aiming to steal your money or personal details.
    Some examples of such phishing attacks include emails appearing to be from Instagram, Netflix, etc and asking user to login to the account using a link and verify with a code. The link will record the login credentials of the user to their social media or Netflix accounts which could be misused by fraudsters. 
  2. Smishing: This is a type of phishing where the attacker will send text messages in bulk trying to trick people into giving out their information. Usually these fraudulent messages can indicate that you have won a contest or lottery, and provide a link or number that will attempt to source your personal information.
    In a recent smishing attack, SBI users received text messages requesting them to redeem their SBI credit points worth Rs. 9,870. The link in the messages took users to a fake website where they were asked to share sensitive financial information such as SBI credit number, expiry date, CVV and Mpin.
  3. Spear phishing attack: These are targeted attacks aimed at a specific person, enterprise or a specialised group of people that requires the perpetrator to research names and identities of the person or people involved and tailor-make a phishing scam for them. The spear phishing scams are more effective and deadlier than a generalised one as they look more authentic and are often utilised as a first step towards a larger scheme by the attacker to infiltrate a company’s defences. Recent example of spear phishing is phishing scam with TV anchor Nidhi Razdan who was duped into a fake job offer to teach journalism at Harvard University. She had shared some personal information for a ‘work visa’ that could have been used to steal money.
  4. Vishing: Vishing is one of the most common types of phishing attacks. This is a technique utilized by cyber-attackers to steal personal or financial information through the utilization of the telephone network. The scammer can use a spoofed Caller ID to appear as someone calling from a prominent institution like a bank or the Income Text Department and trick you into giving out your personal or financial data on the phone. Wife of Punjab Chief Minister lost Rs. 23 lakh to a vishing attack. The caller, posing as a bank manager, stole her card details and OTP on the pretext of crediting her salary.
  5. Whaling: This refers to a phishing attack targeting the elite class “big fish” individuals like a CEO or an owner of a large corporation. The attackers often spend a considerable amount of time in scaling out the target and analyse their schedules to find the appropriate moment and means to unleash the attack and gain their log-in credentials or steal their financial assets.
  6. Pharming: This form of cyber-attack involves the perpetrator sending users to a fraudulent website that appears to be legitimate and trying to steal personal or bank details through their spoofed webpage. In this form of Phishing, the user doesn’t even have to click a malicious link as the attackers can directly infect the user’s device or the website's DNS server to force users to redirect to their fake site even if the correct URL is typed in by the user.

How to prevent phishing attacks

Some of the ways through which you can prevent yourself from being a victim of a Phishing attack are: -

  1. Always recheck any email or text message that you receive on your device and ensure that it isn’t a spoofed message or link by a cyber-attacker that will redirect to a fraudulent spoofed version of the real website.
    • Check if message contains subtle mistakes that expose its true origin
    • Check if link has a slightly changed spelling of a popular website or company
    • If links are short urls, better to avoid them.
    • Check if the email of the sender has changed spelling of a popular company or government organization.
  2. To prevent phishing attacks make sure to enable Two-factor authentication for all of your emails and websites to ensure that there is an extra layer of security and in the event that your log-in credentials are exposed, the attacker still can't gain access to your account or personal details.
  3. Do not enter login details on a popup window. Companies don’t take user credentials on pop-up screens.
  4. Utilise a secure online fraud protection app like Finlock that can safeguard you against a phishing attack and prevent huge financial loss or identity theft by a cyber-attacker.

Conclusion

With phishing attacks resulting in hundreds of people losing their savings and personal information regularly, use these tips to detect and prevent phishing attacks. Safeguarding yourself from one of the most widely used and dangerous forms of cyber-attack is paramount to secure your online identity.

How to report cybercrime online
How to Report Cybercrimes Online with the National Cyber Crime Portal?
Mar 14, 2021

Undoubtedly, the era that we currently live in has a lot more than we originally know. It is indeed significant to keep track of digital actions and solutions. The Digital Era nowadays is seeing a rapid growth in which everything seems to be a little bit out of control.

Without a speck of conclusion, the implications of the process are huge and will keep on growing every day. This eventually drives more risks associated with online frauds and crimes. With increasing cyber frauds we need to learn how to report cybercrimes online, let’s check how it works.

Therefore, the Government of India has taken the initiative by setting up a digital platform i.e., National Cyber Crime Portal. This portal is used for reporting cyber crime online in India. It was launched on pilot basis on 30th August 2019. This portal focuses on reporting of cyber crimes against women, children and financial frauds. Complaints lodged on the portal are taken care of by the authorized law enforcement agency.

Why is there a need for a National Cyber Crime Portal?

Well, the foremost purpose is to offer flexibility to the victims to report crimes directly online and without the hassle of going to police station to report the crime with cyber cell. To report cyber crime in India, the victim needs to fill a complaint form with all the necessary details to pursue investigation and is acted upon swiftly. The Cyber Crime Portal has two sections:

  1. One for crimes against women and children.
  2. Other, which deals with online and social media frauds.

How to Report Cyber Crime Online in India - National Cyber Crime Portal

There is also a provision on the portal to report the crime anonymously. If you want rapid action from authorities, details that you share on the portal need to be complete and accurate. Additionally, there is a ‘check status’ feature that allows you to track your complaint status.

Step-by-Step process to report cyber crime on the Cyber Crime Portal

Reporting of the crime portal can be done in two ways:

  1. Calling on the helpline number 155260. This number is reachable from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
  2. Directly on the official website https://cybercrime.gov.in

Here we are detailing the procedure to file the complaint on the portal. Before we take you to the "how to report cybercrime online" guide, one thing that you solely need to keep in mind is that there are several fake URLs with UI similar to that of official website. Beware of such websites.

  1. Visit the Official Website of the National Cyber Crime Portal

  2. Hover on the ‘menu’ section and you will be able to locate two available options.

    1. Report Women/Child-Related Crime.

    2. Report Other Cyber Crime

Depending on the trait of a crime you are reporting, choose the viable option.

  1. To report a case of online fraud, go to page ‘Report Other Cyber Crime’ and click ‘File a Complaint’ Link.

  2. This will redirect you to the ‘Terms and Conditions’ Page wherein you need to accept the terms by clicking on ‘I Accept’ in order to proceed to the login page.

  3. For login, you will need to specify your username, State, mobile number, etc. You will be prompted for OTP on your phone.

  1. Post-authentication from Captcha, the complaint registration form will fly-in. You will need to enter all the details related to the crime including date, time and location of the incident, details of the incident and supporting evidence. Finally, hit ‘Submit’ and you are done.

  1. You will receive the Complaint ID on your registered mobile number and email. You need to keep this noted for future reference.
  1. Also, download the pdf version of the complaint for your record.

Check the Status of your Cybercrime Complaint

After you have successfully filed a complaint, you need to follow the steps to track the latest status of your complaint.

  1. Login to the official Crime Portal.
  2. Click on ‘Check Status’
  3. You need to enter the Complaint ID. Alternatively, you can also look up from ‘Request Date’
  4. Now track your cyber crime report status easily.

How to Report Cyber Crime Online in India - National Cyber Crime Portal

Summary

The National Cyber Crime Control has in a major way made it easier for reporting cases as they happen. This is a great initiative by MHA and is still continuing to serve many victims in the process. You can use a cyber fraud alert system or online fraud protection app that can protect you against cyber attacks. 

If you still have any queries on how to report cyber crime online in India, feel free to contact us.

UPI payment fraud
UPI Payment Frauds: Types, Prevention & Complaint Registration
May 14, 2021

Unified Payments Interface or UPI has become a very common way to make money transfers and is the new hotshot of the digital payments’ world. Well, amidst all these exists the patent tricks to carry out scams underneath UPI.

Let’s know more about UPI Frauds, types of these frauds and ways to keep yourself safe from such shark moves.

UPI Payment Frauds – The Walkthrough!

In the present time, we all rely on digital transactions. Now that the world is struggling with covid-19, a cashless economy is on the go. Additionally, staying hawk-eyed to the kinds of loopholes is extremely crucial.

The speed and scale of UPI that carries today is beyond imagination. As per National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) – the government body that introduced UPI system in April 2016, 220 banks in India were actively using the UPI platform in April 2021. And there were over 2.7 billion transactions amounting to more than Rs. 5 lakh crores in March 2021.

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UPI is the stepping stone of the current economy and speaking of security, it needs to be airtight. UPI transactions have hit high and not too much to our surprise, it is has become one of the most preferred methods to conduct payments. This has brought unwarranted attention of fraudsters too.

We all have seen the trail when it comes to online banking fraud, and it was very recent when HDFC Bank issued a warning for all its users. The alert made a noise, a loud one, mentioning fraudsters stealing money from the bank account of other users via UPI.

The exact number of UPI fraud cases in India is not available. The scale of the problem can be known from the disclosure by risk and fraud management division of Paytm in a national daily that it receives around 1300 payment related complaints daily – that’s half a million complaints annually from Paytm alone.

To understand the ways to protect ourselves from UPI frauds, it is important to be aware of the possible ways in which UPI Frauds are conducted.

Types of UPI Frauds in India

Staying vigilant is extremely crucial and you need to be aware of different kinds of UPI frauds in India that are happening around you. Some of the prominent ones linked to UPI Scamming are mentioned below: -

1. Phishing UPI Scams

This is one of the most common occurring UPI payment frauds in India. Fraudsters do a pretty good job by sending unauthorized links for payments through text messages, emails, etc. You are very likely to be mistaken when these fake bank URLs twin with the original ones.

Now, once these links are clicked, you will end up on a fake website. If you enter your UPI id and PIN to make the payment, these can be misused by fraudsters to steal money from your account using your UPI details.

In some cases, these fraud URLs may also induce malwares/ spyware on your phone to get your financial information.

2. Deceptive UPI handles

Scammers take advantage of the popular UPI handles that are in public domain and people are using to transfer money. They make similar looking UPI ids and circulate them widely on social media. Users may fall into this trap and end up transferring money into these fake UPI accounts.

Recent example of such malpractice is from 2020 Covid-19 induced lockdown in India. During this time, lot of people wanted to donate money to PM Care – a Government of India initiative, but there were many fake UPI ids doing rounds on social media. Several people lost their money. SBI bank also issued advisory on social media to warn public of such fake UPI handles.

“

3. Screen Monitoring Tools

Well, Work from home is the new mandate now. Screen Monitoring Tools such as AnyDesk, TeamViewer are nowadays a compulsory requirement which can easily be connected to your working device through internet.

Fraudsters are exploiting this moment. They call users and deceive them by posing as representatives from banks or other service providers. If users don’t have screen monitoring tools, they are asked to download these apps on their phones on pretext of resolving some issues or customer verification/ KYC. Once installed on your phone, these apps can grant fraudsters full access to your phone. They can read all your passwords, OTP messages and use them to make unauthorized transactions.

4. UPI Payment Requests

UPI users know that to pay using an UPI app, user has to enter UPI PIN and to receive money they are not required to enter any PIN. But fraudsters promising to pay user share 'send money' request in disguise of a 'collect money' request and fool users into entering their UPI PIN which deducts money from their accounts.

This UPI fraud has been common on e-commerce websites such as OLX where people list their products to sell. Fraudsters contact users posing as a buyer and accept to buy the products unconditionally by paying through UPI. Users are deceived into entering UPI PIN to receive money but they end up losing money. Make sure you also read the advisory by OLX to spot a fraud buyer.

How to file UPI Payment Fraud complaint in India?

As soon as you have become a victim of an unauthorized UPI payment fraud, here is what you need to do.

  1. Directly file a complaint with your bank
    • Inform your bank about the fraudulent transaction by calling the customer care. Make sure to note the complaint number.
    • If calling doesn’t work, you can send an email or written letter to your bank branch manager.
  2. Reach out to your UPI payment platform
    • Register a complaint with your payment platforms such as Google Pay, PhonePe, Paytm, etc. by calling their customer care.
  3. Complaint to cyber crime police
    • Call on National Cyber Crime Helpline 155260 within 2 hours of the UPI payment fraud.
    • After more than 2 hours of the fraud, log a complaint on National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal. Enter all the details about the fraud. Investigating agency will look into this matter and try to recover your money. For more information read How to Report Cyber Crime online in India
    • You can also file an FIR directly at the nearest cyber police station.

How to prevent UPI Payment Frauds?

Some of the common ways to protect yourself from UPI Frauds are: -

  • Keep distance from fraudsters – Don’t engage yourself with fraudsters. Banks and service providers will never call you to ask for your sensitive information. It’s a red flag in case you receive a call from the bank asking you for personal details/ OTP/ PIN or getting you to download some app.
  • Remember when to use PIN – Always remember that you need to enter UPI PIN only to send money. To receive money, you don’t have to enter any PIN.
  • Spam warnings on UPI App – Google Pay and PhonePe give spam warnings to users when they detect a suspicious account. Keeping an eye out for such accounts and do not entertain any payment requests or messages from them.
  • Big ‘NO’ to unsecured public Wi-Fi – Using unsecured public Wi-Fi is never a good idea. Hackers look for a chance to steal the necessary details out of your device when you are connected to the Wi-Fi. To know more about this menace, read How Public Wi-Fi is endangering your private life
  • Unauthentic e-mails are not welcome –The most common way to trick users to download Malware and obtain information is done via E-mails. Therefore, it is a good idea to always scan your e-mails for any sort of viruses.
  • Using tools to detect fraudulent attempts – Cybersecurity tools for your phone such as FinLock is a great option for protection against UPI Frauds. FinLock detects ‘collect’ UPI Payment requests that you receive through QR Codes and alerts you so that you don’t fall into the trap of scammers who will tell you that you will receive money from this transaction.

Final Words

UPI-related frauds have become very eminent in the digital world where we have to rely on a fast mode of financial transaction. Beware, be conscious and most importantly, be ‘alert’ because these frauds are silent. They just attack you and keeping yourself safe by following the right guidelines is the only way that secures you and your credibility.

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