The Decade Big-Money Email Scams Took Over
In the last few years, the “Nigerian prince” scams have gotten a major upgrade.
Some email scams—penis enlargement spam, “Nigerian prince” shakedowns—feel like they’ve been around almost as long as email itself. But the grifts have evolved significantly over the last decade, as scammers have learned that they can extract much bigger payouts from big businesses than lone victims. They’ve tallied billions of dollars in the last few years alone. In the 2020s, it’s only going to get worse.
In these so-called business email compromise schemes, attackers either infiltrate a legitimate email account from a company or create a realistic spoof account. They use that position to broker seemingly legitimate wire transfers for “business transactions” like contract payment; the money instead goes into the criminal’s pockets. The scale is staggering; in September alone, Toyota lost $37 million in a BEC scam, and the Japanese media company Nikkei lost $29 million.