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Business Email Scams’ Latest Target: Art Galleries

Scammers deploying the Business Email Compromise (BEC) scam have proven no company, regardless of size and industry, is immune to this crime. Reports in The Art Newspaper say BEC scammers seem to have a new favorite target this time: art galleries.

According to the publication, scammers using the BEC, in which a fake invoice is sent to a company with request for payment, have stolen “large sums of money” from art galleries in the U.K. and U.S. with Hauser & Wirth, Simon Lee and Tony Karman as just a few of the scam’s recent targets.

“We know a number of galleries that have been affected,” said Adam Prideaux, Hallett Independent art insurance broker, in an interview with the publication. “The sums lost by them or their clients range from £10,000 [$13,000] to £1 million [$1.3 million]. I suspect the problem is a lot worse than we imagine.”

Reports said scammers are infiltrating gallery business email accounts to identify when a sale has been made and to whom. Criminals wait until a PDF invoice has been sent to a client, then swoop in and send another email to buyers telling them to disregard the previous email and invoice, and instead pay their bill via wire transfer into the attacker’s account. Attackers are doing the same when galleries make payments to artists, reports added.

One London-based art dealer, Laura Bartlett, told reporters she was hit by this scheme earlier this year after making “quite a high-value sale” to a U.S.-based art collector.

“Somebody sent out another email saying, ‘Ignore my previous invoice. I sent you old bank details; please use this invoice instead,’” Bartlett recalled. “I kept checking my account to see if the money had arrived and sending more and more emails to my client to ask where the funds were.”

Reports said hackers had infiltrated their emails and been impersonating both sides of the correspondence. The incident was reported to the Action Fraud team with London’s Metropolitan Police, though Bartlett has not recovered the funds.

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