Police: Homebuyer nearly lost $426K in email wire fraud scam
STAMFORD — A local resident nearly lost $426,000 they were using to buy a home after falling victim to an email wire fraud scheme this month, police said.
Stamford police learned of the scheme on March 10, when the victim contacted one of the department’s financial crimes investigators, Capt. Thomas Scanlon and Lt. Douglas Deiso said.
The Stamford resident was trying to buy a Fairfield County home through a real estate agent, “but a suspect had somehow infiltrated their email conversation and tricked the resident into wiring $426,000 to a fraudulent account,” Scanlon and Deiso said in a news release.
The fraud is what’s known as a business email compromise or “BEC” scam. In the ploy, fraudsters send an email that looks like it’s from someone the victim works with or normally does business with, according to the FBI. A scammer may send a fraudulent invoice while posing as the company’s regular vendor, police said.
Stamford police said one of their investigators, who is also a member of the FBI Cyber Task Force in New Haven, confirmed the victim of the fraud had filed an internet crime complaint with the FBI.
Ultimately, $425,000 of the funds involved were frozen and recovered by the victim within days, and they were able to move forward with buying the home, Stamford police said.
“It is extremely important that these types of scams are reported to the banks and law enforcement ASAP,” Scanlon and Deiso said. “We are very pleased with the outcome in this case, but unfortunately, other victims are often not as lucky as the suspects often move funds before the victims even realize they have been scammed.”
The FBI says fraudsters carrying out a BEC scam could try using an email address that mimics a legitimate one so victims don’t notice it’s a fake. They might also try sending out so-called “spearfishing” emails, which try to trick people into revealing confidential information that helps them carry out the fraud. Scammers may also use malware to scrape information from a company’s emails and computer networks.
“That information is used to time requests or send messages so accountants or financial officers don’t question payment requests,” the FBI said on its website. “Malware also lets criminals gain undetected access to a victim’s data, including passwords and financial account information.”
To report cases of online fraud, go to the Internet Crime Center IC3.