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State Employees In Mississippi Targets Of Direct Deposit Scam

BEC makes inroads, now through attempted direct deposits into employee bank accounts, and where state employees in Mississippi are among those being targeted. Elsewhere, an MP in the U.K. stands accused of falsifying expense reports. In the U.S., a farmers’ collective is bilked for millions of dollars by a former employee.

In the quest for ill-gotten gains, fraudsters have a myriad of ways to try to scam unwitting victims, intercepting funds or having them sent to their own accounts. Much has been said in this space about Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams, where bad actors frequently pose as corporate officials, directing targeted individuals to send money to different accounts, or they pose as suppliers and present phony invoices to be paid.

In December, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said that ahead of tax season, preparers and other victims received requests to change direct deposit activity. The IRS cited “spoofed” addresses that seemed official. In other attempts, noted at the time, fraudsters impersonated company executives and tried to solicit W-2s from payroll or human resources (HR) employees, with the aim of filing fraudulent returns on behalf of those employees.

News comes this week from Mississippi that state workers are being targeted by similar fraud attempts. According to the disclosure via the state attorney general (AG), and as reported by Clarion Ledger, state agency HR departments are being approached and asked to submit direct deposit forms. The site said the most recent scams had been uncovered before such deposits were made, but added that other attempts had been successful in the past.

“The email appears to come from an employee’s work email address,” said AG Jim Hood. “In one case, an email address of a state agency’s executive director was spoofed. The email indicated that the executive director was changing bank accounts and needed to change the account information on file at the office.” The address, said the AG, was a Gmail account, and added that the would-be scammers offered up “new” bank details, falsified voided checks and signed forms.

The AG also cautioned that some requests seemed to come from employees requesting that checks be deposited into Green Dot accounts. The accounts are set up so that scammers can immediately spend those deposits, said the site.

A Bit Of Whimsy

Separately, and in a more whimsical vein, amid the more outlandish attempts to wield the corporate credit card, Business.com reported that “there are no limits to what some people think is appropriate to expense.”

In one example, Patricia Campbell, HR director for Pro Bono Legal Advice, said an employee left a city where he had been ostensibly entertaining clients, and “[submitted] a $3,000 expense for taking a private limousine to a petrified rainforest three hours away from the city where he was supposed to be.” She stated that the employee was terminated upon submission of that expense report.

In other instances of questionable and falsified expensing, in the U.K., a member of parliament belonging to the Conservative Party has been charged with falsifying expense reports. MP Chris Davies had been interviewed twice in the past year by authorities and is now charged with two counts of forgery. It has been alleged that, in 2016, he falsified two invoices for a total of £700 ($911.65 USD), charged to a fund for members to furnish their offices.

In news a bit closer to home, AG Web reported that, in Minnesota, Jerome Robert Hennessey pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud. He had been accused of stealing $5.3 million from a farmers’ collective during his time as general manager from 2003 to 2018 — and where he controlled the collective’s bank accounts. He sent checks to himself and to others, and stolen funds were used to pay for international safaris and taxidermy services, the site said.

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