Font Size:

How to Protect Your Small Business from Business Email Compromise Scams

posted on Friday, October 27, 2017 in Security & Fraud Information

Companies of all sizes are being targeted by criminals through Business Email Compromise scams. In these scams, cybercriminals gain access to an employee’s legitimate business email through social engineering or computer intrusion. The criminal then impersonates the employee ¾ often a senior executive or someone who can authorize payments ¾ and instructs others to transfer funds on their behalf. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, more than $360 million has been loss due to these scams.  

Any business that conducts transactions overseas or regularly performs wire transfers should stay alert for these scams. Companies can protect themselves and their employees by using alternative communication channels to verify any large transaction requests and by educating their employees on potential red flags of fraud.

Northwest Bank recommends the following tips to help businesses and employees avoid business email compromise:

  • Educate your employees. You and your employees are the first line of defense against business email compromise. A strong security program paired with employee education about the warning signs, safe practices, and responses to a suspected takeover are essential to protecting your company and customers.
  • Protect your online environment. It is important to protect your cyber environment just as you would your cash and physical location. Do not use unprotected internet connections. Encrypt sensitive data and keep updated virus protections on your computer. Use complex passwords and change them periodically.
  • Use alternative communication channels to verify significant requests. Have multiple methods outside of email – such as phone numbers, alternate email addresses – established in advance through which you can contact the person making the request to ensure it is valid.
  • Be wary of sudden changes in business practices or contacts. If an employee, customer or vendor suddenly asks to be contacted via their personal e-mail address, verify the request through known, official and previously used correspondence as the request could be fraudulent.
  • Be wary of requests marked “urgent” or “confidential. Fraudsters will often instill a sense of urgency, fear or secrecy to compel the employee to facilitate the request without consulting others. Use an alternative communication channel outside of email to confirm the request.
  • Partner with your bank to prevent unauthorized transactions. Talk to your banker about programs that safeguard you from unauthorized transactions such as call backs, device authentication and multi-person approval processes.

For more tips, see the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center’s public service announcement.

If you fall victim to a business email compromise scam:

  • Contact your financial institution immediately to notify them about the fraudulent transfer and request that they contact the institution where the fraudulent transfer was sent.
  • Contact your local Federal Bureau of Investigation office as they might be able to freeze or return the funds, if notified quickly.
  • File a complaint, regardless of dollar loss, at

Scroll to top