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N4T Investigators: Big phish - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Big phish

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TUCSON - Irene Manzanedo was the target recently of a worldwide scam.  Irene is the director of finance at, ironically, the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona.

She received an email on Nov. 16, supposedly from her boss, BBB Chief Executive Officer Pam Crim. It said, "please I need a vendor payment processed right away, let me know if you're available? so I can forward the details to you."

We asked Irene, "When you first saw this email, did you know it was fake?" Yes," she said, "because of the misspelling, number one. And number two is and we always talk about payments.  We always discuss it, face to face. I'm amazed how successful they are, quite frankly."

Suspecting a rat, or in this case a phish, Irene dragged her cursor over the sender's email address and saw it wasn't from her boss, but from a scammer using the name "managingceo1."  Irene then walked across the hall from her office and told her boss about the phishing email.

While Irene didn't fall for what's called the "fake CEO" or "fake president scam", a lot of finance officers at other companies have. The FBI says over the past two years there's been a 1300% increase in identified losses, totaling over $3 billion. 

BBB spokesperson Susann Miller says when you receive an email asking for money, "Don't do anything without confirmation." She says in the days before email, colleagues had to communicate face-to-face or over the phone. "I think right now scammers love the fact that everything is done via email. Technology has become their friends because it makes it so easy to wire funds through a different account."

Miller says, "It's really important that you have internal systems set-up. It's face to face communications, between the CEO and whoever's in finance. And if you have any slight question about it, contact the person that sent it to you. That's just the biggest one."

The FBI says a lot of the dirty money passes through banks in China or Hong Kong. The giant toy company, Mattel, nearly fell victim to this scam a couple years ago.  The company reportedly wired $3 million to a bank in China and the money was headed for a scammer's account. However, Mattel was able to recover its payment only through luck. The transfer took place on a Friday and the following Monday was a holiday. By then, law enforcement and the bank were able to intervene.

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444. 

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