How an OFXpert helped save this US distributor from an $83K email scam
In March 2021, Bruce Romesburg received an email from his supplier with an invoice for the balance due on machinery he had ordered four months ago.
The email looked pretty standard. The new invoice even came signed by the supplier — a signature that Bruce says he knows well because he’s made more than 30 machinery orders from them in the past, converting anywhere between $80,000 to $120,000 US dollars to euros for each payment.
But one thing was different this time. The supplier mentioned that they had an internal issue with their bank so instead of paying the balance of 68,760 EUR to their regular account, they requested Bruce to send the payment, which amounted to $83,300 USD, to the supplier’s sister company based in Turkey.
Bruce said, “I even emailed the supplier back to confirm if they wanted to send the funds to their sister company and they responded right back: ‘Yes, please do that. This is what we’re doing temporarily.’”
Bruce, who uses OFX to make global business payments, typically books his transfers by emailing his dedicated OFXpert.
Before any machinery can get shipped out of Slovakia, Bruce would normally have to complete the payment on his balance. So considering this new request from the supplier, he asked OFX if he could make payments to Turkey. He also wanted to get an expert opinion on the implications of making business transfers to a sister company.
“This has never happened before, so I decided to contact Josh and just ask him about it. I said, ‘What do you think?’”
OFX confirmed that it was possible to make the payment to Turkey, but his account manager recommended that Bruce take specific actions to verify the request.
At OFX the safety of customers’ money is our everyday focus, so OFXers are up to date with fraud prevention tips and the latest scam practices used against individuals and business owners.
Josh explained that requesting payment from a different bank account is one common tactic in email fraud. He advised Bruce to call his supplier from a phone number he had used before to get verbal confirmation about the new bank details.
It turned out to be a scam. Bruce called his supplier and found out there was no sister company nor were there any issues with their regular bank account.
“Somehow [the fraudsters] were able to capture the original purchase order, generate an invoice, change the bank details on it and send it directly to me as though it came from the supplier’s regular email,” Bruce said.
OFX processes thousands of transactions and uses various technology suites to take a layered approach to fraud prevention and detection. But we don’t only rely on technology to help protect OFX clients.
“Unfortunately, scams are one of the most difficult types of financial crime to detect as payments resemble genuine payments. Which is why we provide training to all OFXers on how to detect potential scams and frauds. OFX clients place their trust in OFX to ensure we are protecting them. We never want to let them down,” according to Jason Nader, Head of Fraud and Identity Risk at OFX.
It was a good thing that Bruce took his OFXpert’s advice, because recovering funds from a scam once the payment has gone through is almost impossible. Fraudsters tend to withdraw the funds as soon as they hit the account.
“The client did the right thing by taking the advice of his OFXpert and reaching out to their supplier. Small business owners are so busy that they don’t have time to scrutinize invoices in such detail and all too often end up making payments they shouldn’t when situations like this arise,” Nader said.
In December 2018, Bruce switched to OFX for a more affordable option than his bank.
He says he still uses his local bank for other domestic business payments but leaves the high-value payments to any overseas suppliers with OFX.
“I never checked back with my local bank in four or five years. Maybe they’ve changed their rates and it’s the same price now. But the bottom line is I’ve always used OFX and I wouldn’t change for the sake of changing.”
He says it’s always been the personal service that’s kept him a happy customer, but after that close call with fraudsters, he appreciates the human support even more.
“I’ve always booked my payments through email. I still do it through email, but now I always follow up with a phone call to speak to someone at OFX and to someone at the supplier based on the incident that happened.”
Quick Tips: 3 ways to protect yourself from email fraud
- Avoid posting your email address in online forums so there’s less likelihood that fraudsters could target you or your business
- If an email contains a request to change payment details or processes, get verbal confirmation from the sender – whether it’s your supplier or business partner – before transferring any funds
- Take a few minutes to check business invoices for discrepancies. If you’re unsure about the validity of an email, consider contacting your payment provider for advice
Visit our Fraud and Scams page to learn more about money transfer scams and how to protect yourself or your business.