U.S. officials said Thursday that an unidentified company was defrauded out of nearly $100 million by individuals who used a fake email to pose as one of its vendors.
Reuters reported the U.S. government has filed a civil forfeiture lawsuit in federal court in New York seeking to recover nearly $25 million derived from the fraud which is being held in approximately 20 bank accounts around the world.
Authorities said about $74 million has been returned to the company, according to Reuters.
Tom Brown, the managing director of Berkeley Research Group’s cyber security practice, told Reuters the lawsuit “appears to be the largest email scam that I’ve seen."
The email scheme is believed to have taken place between August and September after a Cyprus-based bank identified some suspicious transfers, authorities said. The fraudsters carried out the scheme by creating a fake email address posing as one of the company’s legitimate vendors in Asia.
The individuals posed as a vendor while communicating with a separate company that was hired to handle the logistics of vendor payments to the American company, the complaint said.
The American company sent $98.9 million meant for the vendor to a bank account in Cyprus, according to the suit. Authorities said at least $25 million was laundered through separate accounts in Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Hong Kong. The Cyprus bank was able to restrain nearly $74 million.
Authorities believe that this case is the latest example of fraudsters targeting businesses with foreign suppliers or that regularly complete wire transfers.
The FBI issued an alert to companies last week that businesses have lost $2.3 billion globally from wire fraud from October 2013 to February of this year.