CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It could be a multi-million dollar mistake that only takes seconds. Scammers are targeting businesses--trying to get you to fall for a fake email or invoice.
As the office manager for a small business in Geneva, Ohio, Julie Lattimer is used to getting emails, phone calls, and even faxes for bookkeeping. Lately though, she's been inundated with messages like these:
“We have an overdue payment for services rendered for research and development,” one email read.
"I will be sending you the banking information as soon as I receive it from the vendor shortly,” another email read.
Lattimer knew something was a little off.
“Regards, Robert. never Robert for my boss. it's always Bob,” Lattimer explained. She added, “the small details and the error in the grammatics of it.”
Her boss’s office just happens to be next door, so she asked him what the email was about.
Turns out, it was a scam.
The Better Business Bureau calls these business email compromise scams.
“These scams are very sophisticated, and those emails look very real,” explained Sue McConnell, President of the Cleveland BBB.
For Arc Rubber, it’s more than just emails. Lattimer is also getting faxes. While she didn’t fall for any of these scams, others are not so lucky.
Globally, between May 2018 and July 2019 there was a 100% increase in losses from business email scams. In the US, businesses lost more than $3.4 billion between 2016 and last year.
“They buy leads of lists of businesses just like anybody else does that provides them names of executives,” McConnell explained.
Lattimer knows what to expect when getting these emails or faxes. She reports them to the BBB, which is part of the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad.
Data from the feds shows most of the money stolen from scammers goes to China, but there is an increase in fraudulent fund transfers sent to the US. “This could be a very big disaster very quickly,” McConnell said.
For Lattimer, she said the scammers are relentless.
“I think it takes nothing to sit there and devise something and start sending it out to wherever you can,” Lattimer said. She added, “this one’s under $100, but if this guy gets 1,000 people to pay it, he’s doing pretty good.”
She’s hoping her experience can help others from falling for the scam.
You can report scams like this one right to the BBB scam tracker website. You can also easily search scams to see details of scams reported to make sure you don’t fall for a similar one.
If you are a victim of a scam, you can call the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad at 216-443-SCAM.