On Feb. 22, the Department of Justice issued a press release announcing the formation of a task force that will focus on Business Email Compromise, or “BEC fraud” schemes. Examples of possible email fraud given in the release include:
■ A vendor repeatedly sends invoices with differing bank account numbers.
■ A company CEO asks assistants to purchase dozens of gift cards to send out as employee rewards, then asks for the serial numbers, so they “can email them out right away.”
■ A homebuyer receives a message from a title company with instructions on how to wire a down payment.

I know of at least two examples that took place in Sandy Springs, both to companies, and specifically directed to an office manager. One was a request by the CEO for $30,000 to complete a sudden opportunity for a business deal, and the second was a request for funds to pay a vendor.

The CEO’s email address was slightly off, by one letter, which the office manager did not notice. She wired the funds, then spoke with the CEO, who naturally was unaware of the transaction. Needless to say, both had a bad day.

The way things are with cybercrimes, you have to inspect everything with a microscope to ensure yourself that you’re not being taken—which is hard, given all the emails and cybershopping that we do.
The purpose of the task force (including local, state, and federal agencies) is to disrupt the flow of funds that benefit the criminal enterprise. The effort will involve strict prosecution and, I hope, a significant effort to support investigations to bring these bottom feeders out of the darkness and into the light where we can identify them, convict them, and send them to prison for a long time.

Still, the effort, if successful, will have to involve community outreach—which is what we have been doing for years. Does that help? I think yes, but cybercrime constantly evolves, which means we have to constantly keep up with the latest ways crooks are developing to take your money.

I’m all for throwing the book at the cybercrooks when we catch them, but it will ultimately fall on each individual to pick up on the clues, which means consistency — which is hard, right? Day in and day out? Come on! I can’t even keep up with which Kardashian is getting divorced this week. Still, it will be what makes the difference.

Here is where I toss the monkey wrench in. The older we get, the more we let our guard down. We are trying our best to keep up with the technology but at times, we slip and fall.

It happened to me. As much as I hate to admit it, I got hacked and my account was compromised. It was an extra account for my off-duty police jobs. I had just paid out a bill or two, so the joke was on them and they got almost nothing, but they got in. I had to change the account and ensure that nothing else was compromised. I was made, embarrassed, and quite frankly, ashamed. After all, I’m the guy telling you to be careful.

After securing everything, putting a solid curse on those who victimized me, and a drink or two, I chalked it up as a learning experience. I had let my guard down. (Note to self: Don’t do that again.)

I hope that this new task force will have a long reach that extends internationally and puts a dent into the fast track of those taking your money through cybercrime.

I want to see the faces of those who hid behind their computers for so long. I want to see the FBI, with their blue windbreakers, conducting numerous perp-walks with the bad guys so that we sit back and feel a little bit better about cybercrime.

And, if you are the guy or gals who scammed me, and your ears, among other things, suddenly fell off your body … well, that was me.

Steve Rose

Steve Rose is a retired police captain and a contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.