On June 4th, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) sent out a Fraud Alert in which they warned business of an electronic scam that has become common within Belize. With Belize moving more and more towards technology, it is becoming easier for these cyber criminals, especially since many monetary transactions are now being done electronically. Love News spoke with the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit, Kent Clare, who told us about how the scam works.
Kent Clare – Director of Financial Intelligence: “What happens really is I am a business person, you are a supplier, you send me an invoice or you send me a schedule that I am supposed to pay you so much over time and somehow the crook becomes aware that I am supposed to pay you. What do they do? They kind of imitate you so that I can send the money to them instead and I believe I have paid. What they would do they would obviously have a bank account indeed as you said. Generally, they operate in jurisdictions which allow them to open a bank account and to move money quickly off of those bank accounts because they need just enough time to get the money and quickly dispose of it. They might simply change and as far as I am concerned I am the business person. I feel that I am sending the payment to the correct person so what they may do when they imitate they use a very small variation in your credentials in terms of so maybe a space between lettering, they change and m to n or a v to w or something like that. They have a bank account and that is the intriguing part because when you send that money they will tell you well you know I am the legit supplier and I have changed my bank account. Please just send it to the new bank account and that is the signal, all indication from the cases that we have seen, these are persons residing overseas in the United States and in Mexico. This is where we are seeing it so we the FIU would have made contact with our counterparts on the next end with the FINSEN and with FIU Mexico and so on just to say listen this is a suspicious bank account that was used in this type of fraud or attempted fraud. In some cases it went through and in some cases it didn’t go through but we would alert them that they could begin an investigation.”
Claire provided some tips for business owners to follow to avoid falling victim to these types of cyber scams.
Kent Clare – Director of Financial Intelligence: “One of the first things, elementary, if you do business with a supplier and they ever tell you, within reason, it can happen. Somebody can say I changed my bank account but if they do tell you that: one, verify and you don’t verify it with the person who sent you the email or who called you. You go on record and you find the original instructions, arrangements, details that you have when you first set up that relationship and you call somebody else. Don’t use the same person who got in touch with you and you find out if that is the case. Generally, that is the first line of defense but also you need to train your staff. Speak to people who not only work in the accounts but who might end up working in accounts because roles change, let them know about these types of things. Of course sensible things like when you make a payment, especially if it is a balloon payment, you know you might have a thousand here, a thousand there and then at the end I pay twenty thousand. When you are about to make that twenty thousand dollar payment you inform the supplier ahead of time, expect that this is coming and confirm receipt because often times the supplier will hold you responsible for the loss of that fund that was stolen. Of Course like sensible things, we preach clean desk policy. See now you come in here there are no documents about and stuff like that. You walk into an office and the secretary is also the cashier, is also customer service and they have invoices on their table and you can see payments to this one and that one. That is where a potential scammer can get your information.”
The FIU encourages business owners to report any transaction of activity involving invoice redirection fraud to them./////////////