FBI Warns of Surge in Coronavirus-Related BEC Schemes and Advance Fee Frauds

The FBI has issued another warning related to BEC schemes and advance fee frauds trying to take advantage of the personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages experienced all over the United States.

Criminals are using the COVID-19 pandemic to trick people and companies, usually with advance fees and BEC (business email compromise) schemes. One of the biggest problems that governments and the health industry face is the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) equipment. Everyone is struggling to provide health workers with the right equipment, and time restrictions make it extremely difficult to vet new suppliers.

The FBI is now aware of multiple incidents involving government agencies tricked in various schemes, paying in advance for items that they never received. Some fraudsters even pose as representatives of well-known companies. By the time any of the purchasing agencies become suspicious, much of the funds had been transferred outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement and were unrecoverable.

“BEC schemes often involve the spoofing of a legitimate known email address or use of a nearly identical email address to communicate with a victim to redirect legitimate payments to a bank account controlled by fraudsters,” says the FBI in the advisory. “A variation on BEC schemes can involve similar social engineering techniques via phone call.”

  • The law enforcement agency underlined some risk factors that should make anyone suspicious, and they are valid even if you’re not living in the United States.
  • The seller initiates contact and the distribution channel can’t be verified
  • The seller is not a company with which the buyer has an existing business relationship
  • The seller or broker cannot clearly explain the origin of the items or how they are available given current demand
  • The potential buyer cannot verify with the product manufacturer that the seller is a legitimate distributor or vendor of the product, or otherwise verify the supply chain is legitimate.
  • Unexplained urgency to transfer funds or a last-minute change in previously-established wiring instructions.

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