Criminals Have a Plan to Steal Your Money. What’s Your Plan to Keep It?

by Keith Parsons


Cyber criminals have become more sophisticated than ever. Thwarting cyber thieves begins with awareness and education — for business owners and everyone in their organization.

Common Scams and Ways to Defeat Them

“Our bank account was compromised … please wire your payments here, instead.” A trusted vendor sends an email with new wire instructions, claiming that their bank account was compromised. You wire payment, only to find later the email was fraudulent — and the money is gone. Prevention tip: Always verify changes in payment instructions via telephone or in person, and talk to a trusted person you know. Thieves may hack someone’s email and lurk for months, studying how they sound in their emails and who they talk to.

“Let us prove we can save you money.” Every business owner wants the best deal possible, especially on overhead expenses like office cleaning services. A recent scam uncovered thieves posing as a cleaning crew to offer their services for just one night at a cut-rate price to prove what they can do. Instead of cleaning, they spent the night rummaging through desks and file cabinets, looking for checks, check stock and bank account numbers. Prevention tip: It sounds like a cliché, but if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do business with people you know, and secure checks and bank statements the same as cash.

“We just don’t have the staff to require two people to authorize a wire payment.” This is a common dilemma, especially since automated systems have led to more thinly staffed accounting operations. Criminals know this pain, and count on it. Thieves use multiple schemes — telephone, email, text messaging, etc. — to steal computer credentials of the employee in an organization who can authorize wire transfers. Prevention tip: The best thing to make it harder for thieves is to have two people approve every wire, every time.

“Technology to fight fraud is too expensive.” Criminals make more than $5 billion off of fraud every day. They perfect their techniques in foreign countries, then move to the Southwest where they count on businesses and their clients to have fewer checks and balances, and, at smaller organizations, less sophisticated technology. Prevention Tip: Every organization can download free software from IBM, called Trusteer Rapport, to use in addition to anti-virus software. Trusteer is critical to specifically help guard against financial attacks that come in forms other than computer viruses.    

Keith Parsons is a  senior vice president and director of Financial Crimes at BOK Financial, a top 25 U.S.-based bank providing services as Bank of Arizona, Bank of Albuquerque, Bank of Arkansas, Bank of Kansas City, Bank of Oklahoma and Colorado State Bank and Trust. Before entering the banking industry, Parsons worked for the National Security Administration as an intelligence analyst and in Counter Narcotics as a senior intelligence analyst.    

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