FinCen Issues Report on Business Email Scams
By: David P. Saunders
At the risk of stating the obvious, everyone uses email. It has become a central component of both our daily lives and, of course our businesses. As we transform into a fully digital,
corporate world, there are those who have sought to exploit the growing reliance on email. Spammers, hackers, and of course, phishers. No, not the people who go to those really long concerts; we are talking about email scammers who purport to tell you that your UPS package has arrived, but all you need to do is click a link and enter some information. These scams can cripple a business, and trying to prevent these scams is difficult because in many ways, the solution relies on removing human error.
Enter the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department that collects and analyzes information about financial transactions in order to combat domestic and international money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes. FinCEN recently held a forum aimed at discussing ways to identify and curtail business email scammers. The forum, held in New York City, analyzed the trends in business email scams. At the forum, FinCEN released a report indicating that reporting of business email scams had more than doubled between 2016 and 2018. The report also detailed that fake invoice scams grew as a methodology, and that manufacturing and construction businesses were top targets.
While knowledge and preparation are critical to defending a business from email scams, the reality of today’s world is that it is inevitable that a scam will succeed from time to time. And that is where FinCEN’s Rapid Response Program comes in. The program was established in 2014 to assist businesses seeking to report and attempt to recover the loss of funds resulting from, among other things, e-mail scams. It has helped to recover more than $500 million in funds. According to FinCEN, “[u]nder the program, when U.S. law enforcement receives a [scamming] complaint from a victim or a financial institution, the relevant information is forwarded to FinCEN, which moves quickly to track and recover the funds. The program utilizes FinCEN’s ability to rapidly share information with counterpart Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) in more than 164 jurisdictions, and leverages these relationships to encourage foreign authorities to intercede and hold funds or reverse wire transfers.” See https://www.fincen.gov/news/news-releases/fincen-exchange-forum-counters-business-email-compromise-scams. This is an important tool in a business’ toolbox when it comes to remediating the harm of an email scam. For information about the program, businesses can contact RRPinfo@fincen.gov.