Cross-border police operation stop $615K ‘Spear Phishing’ fraud against Canadian business: OPP

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) and the United States Secret Service (USSS) worked together to stop a fraud from hitting a Canadian business.

Police say a business reported being targeted by a ‘Spear Phishing’ fraud on Saturday. The OPP quickly contacted the USSS to freeze $615,820 that was transferred to the alleged scammer’s U.S. bank account. The business is well positioned to recover their money, says the OPP.

Police did not release the name of the business.

‘Spear Phishing’ is when a scammer specifically targets a business using fake email accounts that look like it comes from a trusted supplier or contractor.

“The fraudster will request an urgent payment to an alternate bank account for an invoice that is due,” wrote the OPP in a media release.

Provincial police say that sometimes the business is first targeted with malware that sends copies of incoming emails to one of the fraudster’s email accounts.

“Fraudsters will take their time to collect information, study the language on their intended targets, and look for important contacts, payments, and dates so they can send convincing emails from a seemingly trusted source,” wrote the OPP. “Fraudsters launch their attack when an accounts payable invoice has been identified.”

According to the CAFC, ‘Spear Phishing’ frauds cost Canadians $58.2 million in 2023. Ontario victims alone lost over $21.3 million.

Police offer the following tips to help protect you, and your business, from becoming a victim of fraud:

  • Stay up to date on frauds that target businesses and educate your employees with resources found on the CAFC website.
  • Add fraud and cyber training to employee orientation.
  • Do not open unsolicited emails or click on suspicious links or attachments.
  • Take the extra few seconds to hover over an an email address or link to make sure it’s correct.
  • Restrict information that’s shared publicly, especially over social media.
  • Create detailed payment procedures, with includes verbal authentication for any urgent requests or payment changes.
  • Create a verification step for unusual requests.
  • Create procedures in your business to identify and report potential frauds.
  • Always keep security software up to date.

Police say it’s important to report cases of fraud, even if no money was changed hands. That can be done by calling local police and the CAFC at 1-888-495-8501.

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