Fake Email Scams Affect Businesses Around the World, Even Disney
A Winter Park securities firm was the victim of an email scam this summer and unwittingly paid $ 160,000 for a mortgage that ended up in the bank account of a Midwestern resident with ties to criminal enterprises abroad, according to Federal Court documents.
The federal complaint does not name the Florida securities company, but details how the program worked after the securities company received emails and documents that appeared to be genuine.
The securities firm’s client sold a property and $ 160,342 was due to be paid at closing to the mortgage holder, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Orlando Division of the U.S. District Court.
The securities firm’s closing agent emailed the seller of the property to obtain documents from the seller’s ex-wife to complete the transaction. He quickly received a response in his inbox a minute later from someone he thought was the seller. Only that was not the case. The fraudsters had spoofed the seller’s email address, according to the federal complaint.
The “seller” requested a copy of the payment statement and then reported a “minor error”. The agent then received a false document from the “lender” with further instructions to transfer the money to another account. The Closing Agent eventually sent $ 160,342 to a JPMorgan Chase bank account as he was told to pay off the mortgage.
Two weeks later, the seller learned he hadn’t paid the mortgage that month. The seller contacted the closing agent to figure out what had happened, and this is what alerted the securities company to the fraud.
Authorities said the closing agent transferred the money to an account that actually belonged to Jevontae wilkins of Indianapolis.
Special agents of the U.S. Secret Service, who investigate cybercrime and financial crimes, interviewed Wilkins on July 30 in Indiana. Wilkins said he did not know where the money originally came from, but admitted he has “been laundering money for a criminal organization, the Nigerians, for some time,” according to the complaint. .
Via Instagram, Wilkins said he met a man from Dubai named “Michael“and he helped Michael with” foreign currency trading, “according to the complaint. Michael sent money to Wilkins and Wilkins converted it to Bitcoin – a favorite digital currency for hackers because it is difficult to trace – and sent it back.
Wilkins also interacted with an allegedly named person Daniel arriving who described himself as Michael’s boss.
Getting was the one who arranged for approximately $ 588,000 to be transferred to Wilkins’ JPMorgan Chase bank account. The money wasn’t just coming from fraud in Florida, federal officials said. An employee of an unidentified company in Baltimore, MD fell into a similar scheme, sending $ 427,971 to Wilkins’ bank account. The Maryland-based company received a fake email this summer from a real company it normally did business with.
Wilkins followed Getting’s instructions and transferred over half a million dollars from his JPMorgan Chase account to a new account he created at KeyBank. For helping Getting, Wilkins expected to raise $ 60,000, according to the complaint.
Instead, Wilkins voluntarily returned what was left of the $ 588,000 after speaking with federal investigators. He had already spent $ 6,000 on a car down payment for his wife and other personal expenses, according to the complaint.
American magistrate David Irick on Thursday granted an order authorizing the confiscation of the money and the issuance of Wilkins’ arrest warrant.
The FBI calls compromised business emails “one of the most financially damaging crimes online.” It exploits the fact that many of us depend on email to conduct business, both personal and professional.
All over the world, companies and governments have fallen for similar scams. It even happened at Disney World.
An employee of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the Disney government, received fake emails from a real landscaping supplier and was tricked into paying around $ 722,000. The Disney government ended up getting all the money except for $ 94,000, the Orlando Sentinel reported in 2018.