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Phishing scam tries to hook Ventura County folks

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  • Cop turns table on IRS scammer
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Ventura County sheriff’s officials warn residents of a scheme involving scammers compromising email accounts to steal money. 

The scam includes both personal and professional emails being targeted and usually starts with a Trojan horse-like email containing a hyperlink being sent to a potential victim in order to gain personal information, according to Detective Tim Lohman. It’s called “phishing.”

“The moment you click on that link, it downloads malware on your computer,” Lohman said. 

The malware allows a scammer access to emails to monitor a potential victim’s correspondence, Lohman said. The scammer can use that information in a multitude of schemes. The one sheriff’s officials warn of involves real estate agents and escrow companies. 

Although many of these scams have been reported in the Conejo Valley and Oxnard, Moorpark police issued a news release late last month warning business owners and residents of the plot. 

Amy Garcia, an investigator with Moorpark police, said it is referred to as “business email compromise.” Authorities said it is happening nationwide and has been increasing over the past few years. 

The scammer monitors the email correspondence between the Realtor/escrow officer and the homebuyer and creates an email nearly identical to the Realtor/escrow officer’s email, including their writing style, logos, and signatures, Moorpark police said. 

Lohman said the poser email can have one letter changed in the domain name or the letter O switched out to a zero. However, since the name on the account is from a reputable business or known person, many people don’t check the actual email address to make sure it’s legitimate, Lohman said. The initial decoy email that helps a scammer gain access to a victim’s computer also appears this way, he said. 

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A Ventura County firefighter was duped in this scheme earlier this year, Lohman said. He was sent wiring instructions via email from what he thought was the escrow company, but a few days later when he reached out to the escrow company to check on it, the company informed him that it did not send those instructions and doesn’t even do business with the bank he wired the money through, Lohman said. 

The firefighter is now working closely with the FBI to sort it all out, which is typical in these cases. Lohman said a group of people working different types of scams tends to work together to move money out of the U.S. and into a bank account abroad. Some cases that have started locally have ended up in Nigeria, Great Britain and Hungary, he said. 

“Typically with those, if we get them outside the country, we’ll send it to the FBI,” Garcia said, adding that at that point, it’s out of local jurisdiction.

Any crime involving banks also tends to draw the attention of federal investigators, Lohman said. 

The detective’s latest case, reported in early May, works in complete opposite of the scam involving the firefighter. In that incident, a scammer posed as the person selling a home, Lohman said. The scammer monitored the online exchange of the seller and a Conejo Valley area escrow company and knew the company was sending the closing payment via check to the seller, Lohman said. The scammer created an email similar to the seller’s and sent it to the escrow company stating that he didn’t want a check but wanted the money wired to an account. As in the firefighter’s case, the account did not belong to the intended party, Lohman said. 

The investigators said there are some red flags that may tip off a potential victim. They include spelling and grammar errors. If the email address is incorrect, that should also raise concerns. The best way to verify correspondence involves some old-school communication. 

“We have to do our research. … That might actually mean you pick up the phone,” Lohman said. 

Protecting the business

  • Create intrusion detection system rules that flag emails with extensions that are similar to company email. For example, legitimate email ofabc_company.com would flag fraudulent email of abc-company.com.
  • Register all company domains that are slightly different than the actual company domain.
  • Verify changes in vendor payment location by adding two-factor authentication such as having a secondary sign-off by company personnel.
  • Confirm requests for transfers of funds. When using phone verification as part of the two-factor authentication, use previously known numbers, not the numbers provided in the email request.
  • Know the habits of your customers, including the details of, reasons behind and amount of payments.
  • Carefully scrutinize all e-mail requests for transfer of funds to determine whether the requests are out of the ordinary.

 

If it happens to you

  • Contact your financial institution immediately upon discovering a fraudulent transfer.
  • Request that your financial institution contact the corresponding financial institution where the fraudulent transfer was sent.
  • Contact your local Federal Bureau of Investigation office if the wire is recent. The FBI, working with the U.S. Department of Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, might be able to help return or freeze the funds.
  • File a complaint, regardless of dollar loss, with www.IC3.gov.
  • Notify your local law enforcement agencies.

 

 

Article source: http://www.vcstar.com/story/news/crime/2017/07/09/phishing-scam-tries-hook-ventura-county-folks/446287001/