It Can Happen…to Anybody

There is an interesting story I came across.  This goes under the heading of “It Can Happen To Anybody” and I mean anybody.  I’m not talking about the person who gets scammed from the fake Social Security Administration over the phone – by the way, they call me every week.  That’s the one where they say you have a problem with your Social Security account and you must call this number or you are going to lose your benefits.  You have most likely have been contacted by these scammers.  Whether they call your cell phone or your home phone, just ignore them.  Nobody from the government is ever going to call you.  No matter if it’s the police or the IRS or any official Government body, they will just show up at your door, or send you a letter in the mail, but they will never call you.  And they’ll never ask for any passwords, or ask to get paid in gift cards.

One of the stars of “Shark Tank” – the television series that hears pitches for potential investment opportunities for new products and/or services – Barbara Corcoran was recently scammed.  Barbara wasn’t scammed personally, but it was her company, the highly successful Corcoran Real Estate Group in New York City that was the target of the hoax. 

Barbara’s bookkeeper received an email that appeared to have been sent by Corcoran’s assistant.  The email was an approval to pay a German company $388,700 for a project Corcoran was invested in.  The bookkeeper recognized the company and the project and gave the green light to pay the bill.  The bookkeeper paid the bill and then sent a confirmation email to Corcoran’s assistant, and that’s where the error was discovered, the scammer had changed one letter in the assistant’s email address to facilitate the fraud.

These type of scams are prevalent in these days of electronic communication, due to the ease of fulfilling transactions with little or no paper documentation, or having to show up in person at a bank, or financial institution to make transactions.  Today, we just push a button on a keyboard and large sums of money instantly transfer across the internet.  Barbara was, naturally, upset to lose the money, until this week, when the money was found.

While it’s often very difficult to impossible to track down hackers, Corcoran’s IT department was able to track the scammers to China, and the German bank was able to freeze the money being transferred before it made it to China.  No word on whether the hackers have been identified, but Barbara, who had moved on from the loss, was thrilled at the news.

Apparently, “all’s well that ends well.”  But the lesson to be learned here is that it can happen to anyone, and now, more than ever, rock-solid security measures and vigilance is critical in doing business.