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Security & privacy

Alert: email scam has grown – more than $12 billion lost

We keep telling you, be careful who you give your information to, be careful transferring money, and be careful with emails.

But people and businesses keep getting their money stolen. And the tally keeps growing, according to the FBI.

A group of scams called “Business E-mail Compromise/E-mail Account Compromise” (BEC/EAC) have been tracked by the FBI since October 2013, and have cost a total of $12 billion as of May 2018.

An FBI alert says the scam “continues to grow and evolve, targeting small, medium, and large businesses and personal transactions.” It says the scam has been reported in all 50 states and 150 countries, with fraudulent transfers sent to 115 countries.

It works like this: Business victims get a spoofed email as part of a real estate transaction with instructions to change payment types or locations. Once the instructions on the official-looking emails are carried out, the money slips away to another account, which is quickly drained. That makes recovering the money almost impossible.

Ordinary folks are being taken by fake romance emails, also known as catfishing. After being groomed for a while, the victims are persuaded to transfer money to an account, when the money and the sweetheart both disappear.

Banks in China and Hong Kong receive the most transfers, the FBI says, but money has also been sent to the United Kingdom, Mexico and Turkey.

In all, 41,058 American victims have been reported in almost five years.

Here’s how to protect yourself

There are some steps you can take to keep from getting duped.

  • Watch your phone calls. Victims have reported receiving calls requesting personal information for verification purposes.
  • If you feel you’ve been duped, call your bank. Time is of the essence.
  • Contact the FBI. Law enforcement may be able to assist the financial institution.
  • File a complaint with the government. Business should go to or

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