After falling for a BEC scam, Cabarrus County in North Carolina lost $1,728,082.60 after sending $2.5 million to scammers pretending to be contractors building the county’s new high school.
BEC, or Business Email Compromise, fraud schemes are scams where crooks deceive employees of privately-held companies and public organizations into wiring money to entities they trust but whose bank accounts were changed to ones controlled by the criminals.
Cabarrus County fell for this type of scam when they received a phishing email stating that the bank account for Branch and Associates, the contractor building their new high school, had been changed and that the county should use it for future invoice payments.
After receiving documentation that looked legitimate, the county changed the banking information that they would send payments. The scammers then waited for the county to make their next vendor payment, which allowed them to steal $2,504,601.
“Legitimate requests to update bank account information are routine,” stated the county’s announcement. “In this case, the request to change Branch and Associates’ vendor banking information was made by conspirators. They provided County staff with new banking information, seemingly valid documentation and signed approvals. The conspirators then waited for the County to transfer the next vendor payment. After the funds were unknowingly deposited into the scammers’ account, they were diverted through multiple different accounts, the investigation revealed.”
The county had not learned of their mistake until almost three weeks later when they received a phone call from a legitimate representative of Branch and Associates about a missing payment.