Attempts at cyber wire fraud globally, via emails purporting to be from trusted business associates, surged in the last seven months of 2016, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a warning to businesses.
Fraudsters sought to steal $5.3 billion through schemes known as business email compromise from October 2013 through December, the FBI said in a report released Thursday by its Internet Crime Complaint Center.
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The figure is up sharply from the FBI’s previous report which said thieves attempted to steal $3.1 billion from October 2013 through May 2016, according to a survey of cases from law enforcement agencies around the world.
The number of business-email compromise cases, in which cyber criminals request wire transfers in emails that look like they are from senior corporate executives or business suppliers who regularly request payments, almost doubled from May to December of last year, rising to 40,203 from 22,143, the FBI said.
The survey does not track how much money was actually lost to criminals.
Robert Holmes, who studies business email compromise for security firm Proofpoint Inc (PFPT.O), estimated the incidents collated by the FBI represent just 20 percent of the total, and that total actual losses could be as much as double the figures reported by the FBI.