An All New Trend – Using BEC Scams To Steal Goods

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An All New Trend – Using BEC Scams To Steal Goods

(Last Updated On: December 27, 2022)

Using BEC ScamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. To Steal Goods

An All New Trend In Scams

How Scams Work – A SCARSSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Insight

CriminalCriminal A criminal is any person who through a decision or act engages in a crime. This can be complicated, as many people break laws unknowingly, however, in our context, it is a person who makes a decision to engage in unlawful acts or to place themselves with others who do this. A criminal always has the ability to decide not to break the law, or if they initially engage in crime to stop doing it, but instead continues. Actors Use Business Email Compromise to Steal Large Shipments of Food Products and Ingredients

What?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBIFBI FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States and its principal federal law enforcement agency. Operating under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Justice, the FBI is also a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community and reports to both the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence. A leading U.S. counter-terrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal investigative organization, the FBI has jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crimes, including financial fraud.), the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA OCI), and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are releasing this joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA) to advise the Food & Agriculture sector about recently observed incidents of criminal actors using business email compromise (BEC) to steal shipments of food products and ingredients valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While BEC is most commonly used to steal money, in cases like this criminals spoof emails and domains to impersonate employees of legitimate companies to order food products. The victim company fulfills the order and ships the goods, but the criminals do not pay for the products. Criminals may repackage stolen products for individual sale without regard for food safety regulations and sanitation practices, risking contamination or omitting necessary information about ingredients, allergens, or expiration dates. Counterfeit goods of lesser quality can damage a company’s reputation.

BEC is one of the most financially damaging online crimes. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, victims reported losses of almost $2.4  billion in 2021, based on 19,954 recorded complaints linked to BEC attacks targeting individuals and businesses.

What Are Business Email Compromise Scams (BEC)?

Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams are a type of cybercrimeCybercrime Cybercrime is a crime related to technology, computers, and the Internet. Typical cybercrime are performed by a computer against a computer, or by a hacker using software to attack computers or networks. that involves fraudsters manipulating business email accounts or impersonating legitimate business contacts in order to trick employees into sending money or sensitive information. BEC scams are often targeted at small and medium-sized businesses, as they may have less robust cybersecurity measures in place than larger organizations.

One common type of BEC scamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. is the “CEO scam,” where the scammerScammer A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits the scammer. poses as the CEO or another high-level executive and sends an urgent email requesting a wire transfer or sensitive information. Another common tactic is for the scammer to impersonate a vendor or supplier, requesting payment for goods or services that were not actually provided.

To prevent BEC scams, it is important for businesses to educate their employees about the risks and to establish clear protocols for verifying the authenticity of requests for sensitive information or money. This might include using two-factor authentication for email accounts, as well as verifying requests through phone calls or other means of communication. It is also important to regularly update cybersecurity software and to use strong, unique passwords for all business accounts.

BEC scams can be particularly damaging to small businesses, as they may not have the resources to recover from the financial losses or reputational damage that can result from these types of attacks. By taking proactive measures to protect against BEC scams, businesses can help to safeguard their assets and maintain the trust of their customers.

THREAT OVERVIEW

Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

Threat actors may target Food & Agriculture businesses using the following common tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to steal food products and  ingredients:

  • Creating email accounts and websites that closely mimic those of a legitimate company. The accounts and web addresses may include extra letters or words,  substitute characters (such as the number “1” for a lowercase “l”), or use a different top-level domain (such as .org instead of .gov).
  • Gaining access to a legitimate company’s email system to send fraudulent emails. Spear phishing is one of the most prevalent techniques used for initial access to IT networks; personnel may open malicious attachments or links contained in emails from threat actors to execute malicious payloads that allow access to the network.
  • Adding legitimacy to the scam by using the names of actual officers or employees of a legitimate business to communicate with the victim company.
  • Copying company logos to lend authenticity to their fraudulent emails and documents.
  • Deceiving the victim company into extending credit by falsifying a credit application. The scammer provides the actual information of a legitimate company so the credit check results in an approval of the application. The victim company ships the product but never receives payment.

Food & Agriculture Sector BEC Incidents

In recent incidents, criminal actors have targeted physical goods rather than wire transfers using BEC tactics. Companies in all sectors—both buyers and  suppliers—should consider taking steps to protect their brand and reputation from scammers who use their name, image, and likeness to commit fraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim. and steal products.

Recent BEC incidents targeting the Food & Agriculture sector include:

  • In August 2022, a US sugar supplier received a request through their web portal for a full truckload of sugar to be purchased on credit. The request contained grammatical errors and purportedly came from a senior officer of a US non-food company. The sugar supplier identified the email address had an extra letter in the domain name and independently contacted the actual company to verify there was no employee by that name working there.
  • In August 2022, a food distributor received an email purportedly from a multinational snack food and beverage company requesting two full truckloads of powdered milk. The criminal actor used the real name of the chief financial officer of the snack food company but used an email address containing an extra letter in the domain name. The victim company had to pay their supplier more than $160,000 for the shipment after responding to the fraudulent request.
  • From at least June through August 2022, unknown criminal actors used the identity of a US company to fraudulently attempt to obtain store credit and/or place large purchase orders to procure shipments of powdered milk and other ingredients from multiple suppliers. Industry dairy vendors notified the company that the unknown third party created falsified credit applicationsApplications Applications or Apps An application (software), commonly referred to as an ‘app’ is a program on a computer, tablet, mobile phone or device. Apps are designed for specific tasks, including checking the weather, accessing the internet, looking at photos, playing media, mobile banking, etc. Many apps can access the internet if needed and can be downloaded (used) either for a price or for free. Apps are a major point of vulnerability on all devices. Some are designed to be malicious, such as logging keystrokes or activity, and others can even transport malware. Always be careful about any app you are thinking about installing., purchase orders, and invoices in their attempts to place large orders for powdered milk. In one instance, the attempted purchase orders totaled nearly $230,000. In another instance, a vendor shipped two truckloads of powdered milk valued at approximately $200,000. The criminal actors sent emails using the names of the victim company’s president and other employees, used the company’s logo, a variation of the company’s name, and an email address that varied only slightly from real company addresses.
  • In April 2022, a US food manufacturer and supplier received a request through their web portal inquiring about pricing for whole milk powder purportedly from another food company. The spoofed food company email used the name of the president and the company’s actual physical address. The ingredient supplier ran a credit check on the company, extended a line of credit, and the first of two shipments – valued at more than $100,000 – was picked up from
    the supplier. The victim company refused to release the second load until payment was received, and realized the email address used by the criminals was a slight variation on the actual company’s domain name. The victim company contacted the legitimate company, who indicated their identity had been used in similar scams with other companies.
  • In February 2022, four different fraudulent companies placed large orders for whole milk powder and non-fat dry milk from a food manufacturer. The orders, valued at almost $600,000, were picked up, and the victim company was unaware something was wrong until they did not receive payment. In all four instances, real employee names and slight variations of legitimate domain names were used.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The FBI, FDA, and USDA urge businesses to use a risk-informed analysis to prepare for, mitigate, and respond to cyber incidents and cyber-enabled crimeCyber-enabled Crime A Cyber-enabled crime is one where technology facilitates a criminal to commit a crime against an individual or a business. These are where there is a one to one relationship between the criminal and the victim. Romance scams, email fraud, and many other types of scams are considered cyber-enabled crimes. The technology used can be the Internet, a computer, a phone, or other devices.. Mitigation recommendations to prevent, detect, and respond to BEC-enabled product theft schemes include:

  • Independently verify contact information provided by new vendors or customers through reputable online sources like associations or business directories. Pay close attention to the verified company name and branding. For example, a scammer’s email may reference “Acme Baking, Inc.” instead of “The Acme Baking Company” and contain an off-color or pixelated logo which mimics the original.
  • Carefully check hyperlinks and email addresses for slight variations that can make fraudulent addresses appear legitimate and resemble the names of actual business partners. Look for additional punctuation, changes in the top-level domain (i.e. “.com” vs “.gov”), added prefixes or suffixes, or misspelling of the domain.
  • Regularly conduct web searches for your company name to identify results that return multiple websites that may be used in a scam, i.e. the actual website “abccompanyllc.com” may be spoofed by fake domains like “abccompany.biz”, “abccompany11c.com”, or “abcompanyllc.com”.
  • Look for grammar, spelling errors, and awkward wording in all correspondence, including emails or requests through company web portals.
  • Ensure company policies provide for verification of any changes to existing invoices, bank deposit information, and contact information.
  • Encourage employees to request clarification and report suspicious requests to their management prior to authorizing transactions.
  • Confirm legitimacy of advance payment or credit requests when not previously required.
  • Verify all payment changes, credit requests, and transactions in person or via a known telephone number rather than through a number or link provided in a suspicious email.
  • Be skeptical of unexplained urgency regarding payment requests or orders, especially from new customers.
  • Be wary of last-minute changes in wire instructions, account information, or shipping destinations as well as changes in established communication platforms or email account addresses.
  • Educate employees about BEC scams, including preventative strategies such as how to identify phishing emails and how to respond to suspected compromises. The FBI has BEC resources here.
  • Implement a user training program with phishing exercises to raise and maintain awareness among users about risks of visiting malicious websites or opening malicious attachments. Reinforce the appropriate user response to phishing and spear-phishing emails.

Immediately report any online fraud or BEC activity to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov/Home/BEC

Recommendations for information technology administrators to help prevent BEC-enabled product theft schemes and to prevent the company’s email system from being used in a scam include:

  • Enable anti-phishing and anti-spoofingSpoofing Spoofing occurs when a caller maliciously transmits false caller ID information to increase the likelihood that you'll answer. Scammers often spoof local numbers, private companies, government agencies and other institutions. It can also apply to pretending to be an email address, or through other media. security features that blockBlock Blocking is a technical action usually on social media or messaging platforms that restricts or bans another profile from seeing or communicating with your profile. To block someone on social media, you can usually go to their profile and select it from a list of options - often labeled or identified with three dots ••• malicious emails.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication for all email accounts.
  • Prohibit automatic forwarding of email to external addresses.
  • Frequently monitor the company email exchange server for changes in configuration and custom rules for specific accounts.
  • Add an email banner to messages coming from outside your organization.
  • Prohibit legacy email protocols, such as POP, IMAP, and SMTP1, that can be used to circumvent multi-factor authentication.
  • Ensure changes to mailbox login and settings are logged and retained for at least 90 days.
  • Enable alerts for suspicious activity, such as foreign logins.
  • Configure Sender Policy Framework, DomainKeys Identified Mail, and Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance to prevent spoofing and validate email.
  • Disable legacy account authentication.

The Implications!

While scammers & cybercriminals have been prolific in stealing money, this represents a whole new game with huge imacts on businesses and consumers worldwide.

While normally we talk about relationship scamsRelationship Scam A Relationship Scam is a one-to-one criminal act that involves a trust relationship and uses deception & manipulation to get a victim to give to the criminal something of value, such as money! Click here to learn more: What Is A Relationship Scam?, a BEC scam is a form of a relationship scamRelationship Scam A Relationship Scam is a one-to-one criminal act that involves a trust relationship and uses deception & manipulation to get a victim to give to the criminal something of value, such as money! Click here to learn more: What Is A Relationship Scam? – a relationship between a business and a customer. We also are presenting this to keep all of our readers informed about the different kinds of scams.

But there is another reason, and that is that individual victims also work for companies that may become affected by these scams and are often completely ignorance about them. Scam victims can learn to play a new role in their workplace and help others to become more aware of How and Why scams happen!

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This program is designed to help scam victims struggling to recover on their own and for those who want to understand the overall process. You can be using other resources, such as traumaTrauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS. counselingCounseling Counseling is the professional guidance of the individual by utilizing psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes. A mental health counselor (MHC), or counselor, is a person who works with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health. Such persons may help individuals deal with issues associated with addiction and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and aging. They may also work with "Social Workers", "Psychiatrists", and "Psychologists". SCARS does not provide mental health counseling. or therapy, qualified support groupsSupport Groups In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers., or completely independent – on your own!

The SCARS Steps program is a complete program and is provided for the purpose of helping scam victims to overcome this experience. Throughout this SCARS Steps Program, we speak about issues and challenges that a victim may have and help guide them through their recovery. But each person is different and it is important to understand your own reasons for being vulnerable to being scammed.

After the trauma of being scammed, you need to take steps to recover and move on. This may be an alternative to counseling in the short term, but we still encourage you to seek out professional help & support. Throughout this SCARS Steps Program, we speak about issues, challenges, defects, or problems that a victim may have in a generalized way.

The SCARS GREEN BOOK will help you recover from your scam offline and it will always be there when you need it!

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This SCARS Publishing book represents a complete guide to help the families and friends understand how these scams work and how to help the victim.

The SCARS Slate Book should be purchased by family and friends to better understand what happened to the victim and the traumatic impact on them. But it can also be shared by the victim so that they do not have to explain to family and friends about the scam. This publication is to help others to help Scam Victims to make it through this traumatic experience and recover.

Each person is different and it is important to understand how relationship scams work and why people are vulnerable; to being scammed, how they were lured in, then groomed and manipulated. This understanding is essential in helping them through the process of ending the scam and then on to recovery. The SCARS Slate Book will provide the information necessary to help support a victim through this process.

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Your Personal Scam Evidence & Crime Record Organizer

ORGANIZE YOUR INFORMATION TO MAKE THE REPORTING PROCESS SIMPLE!

Helps you get and stay organized. This publication is to help Scam Victims organize their crime information. Complete this information before reporting to the police then bring this book with you

Before or after reporting to the police the RED BOOK gives you a dedicated tool to record all the essential facts of this crime. The Victim, the Scammers, the Money, and your Police interactions. Everything that really matters can be easily recorded for your immediate use and for the future!

As we have seen, money recovery/repayment programs can become available years after the scam ends and you need to keep all the details of this crime in case it is needed. We have also seen scammers being extradited to the U.S. and other countries, this will help in the event you testify or give statements, Additionally, this helps you have your information ready to qualify for victims’ benefits, compensation, or aid.

The Official SCARS RED BOOK is your way of recording all the important facts of this crime so that you do not lose essential information, Complete the RED BOOK then put it away with the confidence that you will have it if or when it is needed.

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By the Society of Citizens Against Relationship ScamsSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Inc.

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