Before you send a wire based upon an email exchange, be cautious! Even if the email appears to be from a known party, it could be a fraudulent wire request.
Protecting our personal and business banking customers from cybercriminals is always a top priority at United Bank. So with email compromise scams becoming more sophisticated and more prevalent, United Bank is not only ensuring our policies and procedures are thorough and practiced, but we also want to educate our customers on what they can do to avoid being victims of cybercrimes.
One of the areas where financial institutions are witnessing the escalation of cybercrime involves fraudulent wire transfers where an unsuspecting individual or business is duped into transferring cash electronically to fraudsters.
According to industry experts, the number of wire transfers taking place has nearly doubled over the past 20 years, while the total dollar value has tripled over the same period of time. This volume in wire transfers has made financial institutions and their customers a very attractive target for fraudsters. The FBI said it has seen a significant increase in these type of cases since January 2015 and report that in about 1 in 4 instances funds are wired to the criminals carrying out the fraud. It’s also been said that consumers in the United States lose millions of dollars each year to fraudulent wire transfers.
That’s why we remain steadfast at United Bank in protecting you from being a victim of cybercrimes but also raising awareness of what our customers should do to stop these fraudsters. After all, prevention is the best protection with cybercriminal activity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Email Scams & Fraudulent Wire Transfers
What is wire transfer fraud?
Wire transfer crimes occur when personal banking and business banking customers are deceived by fraudsters to wire money to them. They use language that might be specific to the person or the company they are targeting and then request a fraudulent wire transfer using dollar amounts that would not be out of the ordinary based on the customer. The cybercriminals use phishing emails and then leverage trusted relationships between individuals who authorize wire transfers and those who send them out. The scam is not just specific to businesses or other organizations that regularly make wire payments (businesses of all sizes, nonprofits, law firms, schools and others). Rather, anyone can be a victim of this type of cybercrime and should take every precaution to protect themselves.
How can fraudulent wires impact an individual or business?
The total cost of wire fraud can be enormous – and not just from a monetary perspective. If your business is a victim of a fraudulent wire transfer scheme, not only do you need to be concerned about possible financial losses but also the potential reputational risk, the loss of other personal resources and the time to respond to the fraudulent activity. If you are personally a victim of a cybercrime or a fraudulent wire transfer, not only are you faced with the loss of money and the fear of being targeted by a criminal, but it can also take a toll on your well-being as you need to file a police report and spend your personal time working with the Bank and law enforcement to aid in the investigation.
What are some general rules individuals and businesses should follow to guard against becoming victims of email scams and fraudulent wire requests?
Additional helpful tips for businesses when it comes to fraudulent wire transfer requests:
- Never wire money to people you don’t know – regardless of how convincing or legitimate their wire request looks and sounds.
- Require face-to-face or over the phone authorizations for all wire payments.
- Confirm email requests from a known party by phone or in-person in case their email has been hacked.
- Be wary of e-mail-only wire transfer requests and requests involving urgency.
- Ignore any offer from someone you don’t know who asks you to deposit a check in your account and then instructs you to wire that money to someone else.
- Closely monitor your bank accounts on a daily basis.
- Immediately contact us and the local police if you think you’ve been a victim of a cyber-scam.
- Frequently update anti-virus and anti-malware programs.
- Close all other browser tabs when banking online.
- When finished with online banking, log off online and close the browser.
- Never access online banking accounts on public computers.
- Cash Management customers should consider having a computer dedicated to online banking functions, with no email or other web access – in order to reduce the exposure to malware and viruses.
- All customers should download IBM Trusteer to provide enhanced security – a service provided by United bank at no charge.
- Make sure your policies and procedures regarding wire transfers and other banking activity are understood and practiced by employees.
- Establish an employee awareness program.
- Businesses should establish procedures for incoming and outgoing payments.
- If possible, require a second authenticator within your business for all requests for wire transfers.
- Pick up the phone and verify legitimate business partners.
- Be cautious of mimicked e-mail addresses.
- Make sure your employees know when a scam happens, how it was perpetrated and motivate them to remain vigilant.
- Businesses should invest in a detailed review of its IT infrastructure and security that is reflective to the size of their respective business.
- If possible, require a second authenticator within your business for all requests for money transfers. If you are a Cash Management customer at United Bank, our policy is to require dual control. If you choose single approver, you must sign a waiver.
What is United Bank doing to protect its customers from email scams and wire transfer fraud?
In addition to proactively educating customers on how to prevent themselves from being victims of a cybercrime, United Bank provides continuous training for all employees so they can understand the different types of cybercrimes, how to spot them and how we can protect our customers and the Bank. We also have a seasoned Information Security Team and Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) within the Bank that identifies and implements industry best practices so we can continue to keep up with the ever-changing and growing sophistication of cybercrime activity. However, we emphasize that our customers should be just as involved and proactive in the protection of personal information as we are at United Bank and always practice a questioning mindset before you wire money.
What should a United Bank customer do if they suspect they are a victim of a wire transfer scam or other kind of cybercrime?
If you suspect you’ve been a victim of fraud, you should contact United Bank’s Customer Care Center immediately at 1-866-959-2265 to alert us to what happened. We also recommend that you contact local law enforcement as well as the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3) at www.ic3.gov.