Business Email Compromise (BEC) Scams: A deep insight on how attackers leverage social engineering tricks to perform BEC scams

by chebbi abir

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a type of scam that targets corporate companies that pay bills via wire transfers. BEC scammers targeting employees of corporate companies mostly impersonate the company’s CEO or senior executives. These scammers use social engineering techniques to trick employees into sending funds directly to the scammers.

Types of BEC Scams

According to the FBI, there are five types of BEC scams:

  • Bogus Invoice Scheme – This scheme is also known as the ‘Supplier Swindle’ and ‘Invoice Modification Scheme’. This scheme often targets companies with suppliers abroad. These scammers impersonate the suppliers and request payment via wire transfer to an account controlled by the scammers.
  • CEO Fraud – In this type of scam, attackers compromise CEO or a senior executive’s email account and use it to send emails to employees requesting money transfer to the account controlled by them.
  • Account Compromise – Scammers compromise targeted employees’ email accounts and send email to multiple vendors requesting payment via wire transfer to the scammers’ accounts.
  • Attorney Impersonation – In this case, scammers impersonate lawyers who are in charge of confidential matters and request payment from victims.
  • Data Theft – In this scam type, attackers target employees PII, social security number and tax statements to be used for various other attack campaigns.

Examples of BEC scams

Example 1 – BEC scam targeting employees’ paycheck

In January 2019, BEC scammers targeted employees paycheck. These scammers sent spoof emails to the HR department impersonating the employees and requesting the HR to change their direct deposit information and divert monthly salary paycheck to a fake account controlled by the scammers.

Example 2 – BEC scammers exploiting a Gmail feature

In February 2019, Business Email Compromise (BEC) scammers were exploiting a Gmail feature ‘Dot accounts’ to perform various fraudulent activities such as filing for fake tax returns, filing for fake unemployment benefits, and more.

Gmail’s ‘Dot accounts’ is a feature of Gmail addresses that ignores dot characters inside Gmail usernames, regardless of their placement. Scammers were taking advantage of this feature and creating multiple email accounts to perform various fraudulent activities.

For example, scammers leveraged this feature to trick Netflix account owners into adding card details to scammers’ accounts.

BEC scammers switching to mobile

Recently researchers noted that scammers are adopting SMS as a communication platform for BEC attacks as mobile devices are easier to facilitate attacks. For which, these scammers are using temporary US-based phone numbers and are utilizing services such as Google Voice to perform multiple attacks from the same US number.

How to stay protected?

  • It is always best to use two-factor authentication while logging in to your email accounts.
  • To stay protected from such attacks it is important for organizations to train their employees on how to react to emails or SMS that request any sort of financial task.
  • It always best to ensure the sender’s email address and confirm directly with the sender in person or via phone call regarding the email.

Experts recommended users to never open any email or attachments that come from anonymous senders.



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