Avoid Falling Victim to Fraudulent Payment Requests

Episode ID S2E01
January 21, 2021

On an annual basis, the FBI receives at least 467,000 cybercrime complaints, causing as much as $3.6 billion in losses. In many of these cases, the fraudster posed as a contracted vendor and sent an email, letter or phone call asking for payments to be made to a new bank account. Don’t be the next victim of a cybercrime attack. In this month’s episode of CoBank’s Fraud Wise, the monthly audio program focusing on the fraud and security risks faced by organizations and individuals, learn the red flags that can help identify fraudulent payment requests.


Jamie Fiedor: Hello, this is CoBank's Fraud Wise, helping you avoid becoming a victim of fraud. In 2019, the FBI received more than 467,000 cybercrime complaints that caused an estimated 3.5 billion in losses according to the FBI's annual report. I am Jamie Fiedor, senior financial specialist here at CoBank. With me is Bora Manzanares, supervisor of the financial crimes team.

Bora Manzanares: Thanks, Jamie. Hi, everyone. Thank you for your time today. We'll be talking about red flags that can help you identify fraudulent payment requests. I've reviewed a recent case in North Carolina that caused one of their counties a loss of $1.7 million. The county hired contractors to build a new high school for the city. Multiple emails were exchanged with the county officials and the contracting agency. In one of those emails, the agency requested that payment be made to a new bank account for this large project. Several weeks later, the county discovered that this email request was from an impersonator and not the true contracting agency.

Jamie: From what I understand, Bora, there are several cases affecting counties across the US similar to the North Carolina case. What do you think are some of the red flags that could have been identified during this exchange?

Bora: Well, one of the first things to look at is compare the new email requests to previous emails and invoices. Are the email signatures the same? Are logos missing or appear to have been edited? Do the invoices look similar to the previous ones? Is the font the same? Does the address match? Are there discrepancies in the zip code or the street number? Are there misspellings or grammatical errors in any of these communications? These are all questions to ask yourself before moving forward with payment requests.

Jamie: Great points. These are important red flags to be aware of. Another thing you want to look out for is if they're trying to rush you into sending the funds out. For example, sending multiple requests for payment and then requesting immediate confirmation. These imposters will gain your sympathy by using fake stories such as loved ones being in the hospital to pressure you and to instill panic.

Bora: Along those same lines, imposters use secrecy to keep communication between you and them confidential. These requests are out of the ordinary and should be questioned further.

Jamie: Whenever in doubt, confirm requests or a previous known number on file. Do not use the numbers provided in the email request. You could be talking to the fraudster.

Bora: Please review the red flags printable bookmark loaded on the Fraud and Security Center on our website at cobank.com. You can refer back to it when in doubt. Thank you for your time today.

Jamie: This has been CoBank Fraud Wise helping you protect against fraud. For more information about these and other types of fraud, visit cobank.com/security.