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FBI has a warning about complex cyber conspiracy targeting businesses in Utah and around the nation

Posted at 7:03 PM, Aug 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-15 21:03:30-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The FBI is warning Utahns about a complex cyber conspiracy, targeting businesses around the country.

It's a growing cyber scam called business e-mail compromise.

According to Jeffrey Collins, a Supervisory Special Agent for the FBI in Salt Lake City, in 2017, 150 Utah based businesses were victims, reporting losses totaling $5 million. So far in 2018, there has already been more than $20 million stolen.

“It`s really spiking and we`re seeing just an upward trend in the amount stolen,” Collins said.

According to Sgt. Jeff Plank with the Utah Department of Public Safety, it starts with an email from your boss, asking you to transfer or wire money.

“It was for a product that they normally buy everyday so the employee who received the email was not suspicious about it at all,” Plank said.

However, that money isn't going where you think it is.

“Just before the company is going to wire some money to a legitimate customer, the subject will insert themselves and say the wiring instructions have changed, please send it to this new bank,” Collins said.

Little do you know, the fraudster had been spying on you. They hacked into your email account with something called a phishing scheme, so they could learn the ins and outs of your business.

“They`ll send you a link or something that says click on this, fill out your username and password, and then that gets sent to the subject overseas. They get into your email account and they start watching,” Collins said.

Two defendants have been indicted here in Utah for scamming a local business in July 2016.

“It looked like it was coming from the CEO of that company. The impersonator who sent the email requested that the employee send approximately $60,000 to a specific account,” Plank said.

The FBI was able to track down the recipient of the money, 32-year-old Saheed Yusuf of Atlanta. He's facing several charges related to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

The co-defendant, Yanisha Matthis, also lives in Atlanta. She's what the FBI refer to as a money mule, someone who is recruited, often unwittingly, to transfer funds.

The FBI says schemers aren’t just targeting businesses either. Often, they’ll find victims who are buying a home.

“You’re just about to finalize that deal and you send in all this money," Collins said. "You think you’re sending it to the title company, escrow, anywhere in there, and at the last second those wiring instructions get changed."

So how do you stop yourself from becoming a victim? First, a lot of times the email itself will have some red flags, like a misspelling in the address. You should also make a phone call any time before you transfer a significant amount of money. Also, be skeptical about any last-minute changes coming through email.

For people who are looking for a stay-at-home job opportunity, be wary of anything that seems vague and involves wiring money because you may be recruited to be a money mule without knowing it.