I hate the column I’m about to write, but if it helps even just one of you, then you can buy me a stiff drink next time you see me.
I’m such a believer in progress and technology enabling us to be better. To do better things. More of them. To have a bigger impact on what we believe in. I still believe in all of this, but recently technology was used against our company. We’ve been duped in a scam that cost us quite a bit of cash. Here’s the story.
We were hit with the
CEO email scam.
An outside person pretending to be a person of power in your organization emails a person who is able to release funds and asks them to transfer money to an outside account. Seems pretty simple. It is. The emails seem to come from the person in power. They are written in the same manner and create a sense of urgency. They use real names and real email signatures. Often times, the email will be coming from the same email address or one very similar. In our case, as many others, the incoming email was one letter off the real email. It’s not something you catch when it seems so common.
In our case, the sender requested a wire transfer of a sum that was not outside of our regular transactions. The email comes in at a time while the person in power is out of the office. For us, it stated that I was tied up in meetings and couldn’t get to the phone, but could answer any questions via email. Hitting reply on the email puts you in conversation with the fraudsters. The conversation back and forth seems very legit. It requests a wire transfer for a legitimate reason, in our case it stated a business acquisition that was confidential until I was ready to announce it the following week. By the time you catch on, the money has been transferred to an account that no longer exists and has since been transferred to several others across many international borders. It’s gone.
It’s one of those things that you hear about and think: It’ll never happen to me. Until it does.
When you get to a certain size, you just can’t oversee everything. You need people. These people want to do the right thing and think they are. It’s not their fault. Looking back is easy. We could have done this. Put that in place. Caught it like this. It’s all hindsight. It’s too late.
If it wasn’t a scam that worked, it wouldn’t have reached staggering $2.3 billion
dollars worth in the US. Recently, I even noticed a Facebook post from Richard Branson that shared how he was almost duped for
$5 million dollars. He caught it in the last moments, but his friend got scammed with a
$2 million dollar hit.
I’ve never done what I do for the money. It’s not my primary motivation. I have much bigger motivators for doing what I do. I’m not going to lie. My liquor cabinet took a hit that week. It pains me to think that someone, somewhere has this money that didn’t earn it through sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears and is using it for God-knows-what. I’m able to find some peace in the fact that I had this money to lose in the first place. Not everyone is so fortunate.
You probably can figure out many things to put in place to avoid getting caught up in this type of scam. The truth is, that once you put things in place, a new scam will arise. So how do you protect yourself? Well, it’s not easy. It’s a cat and mouse game.
For me, I know that I couldn’t have had that money to lose without the use of technology. Without the systems and efficiencies that technology has enabled us with, we wouldn’t have had that cash in the first place.
We all have that person in our lives that believes technology is unsafe, evil and we’re better off without it. Well, back in the day, banks still got robbed. Technology is an empowering tool. It empowers the good people and the bad. Find a way to use it to empower what you believe in and know that it will bring you more good than bad. If you are in the business of building beautiful things, technology can definitely help you do more of that.
If you want to streamline your operations, there’s technology for that. At the end of the day, do what you do best and what makes you feel great. The scammers are always on the run and will never have a good night’s sleep like we will.
You’re either a good person or a bad one. Choose to be a good one and there will always be more money coming in than going out to fraudsters.