On Tuesday (June 14), the FBI issued a warning about the rising threat of wire transfer fraud.
The bureau disclosed that hackers have attempted to steal more than $3 billion from businesses using the fast-growing scam, in which criminals pretend to be company executives in email messages to order large wire transfers, Reuters reported.
As part of its newly launched public awareness campaign on wire transfer fraud, the FBI provided tips to help companies detect and fight the threats. The scam is also known as the Business Email Compromise and typically only goes after businesses, rather than consumers.
According to the bureau’s data, there have been 22,143 cases of wire transfer fraud reported by U.S. and foreign victims, with an estimated $3.1 billion in fraudulent transfers initiated from Oct. 2013 through May 2016.
Supervisory Special Agent Mitchell Thompson explained that, if one becomes a victim of such acts, immediately notify the FBI so that it can attempt to freeze funds before they can be stolen.
“The sooner somebody reports this to the FBI, the better the possibility they can get their money back,” Thompson said during a recent news conference, Reuters noted.
The bureau’s findings also show that the majority of the cases reported involve wire transfer requests to banks in Hong Kong and China. In total, there were 79 countries identified by the FBI as being involved in requests for transferred funds.
There’s been a drastic increase in the number of these cases and an estimated 1,300 percent increase in losses since Jan. 2015.
Authorities expect that the amount of global losses will only grow as more criminals are attracted to the money being made from wire transfer schemes.
“It’s a low-risk, high-reward crime. It’s going to continue to get worse before it gets better,” former federal prosecutor Tom Brown told Reuters, adding that, in many cases, companies can’t fathom the potential fallout from email account breaches.
“This shows that even the hack of an email account can cause significant financial loss,” Brown added.