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State warns that business imposter email scams are on the rise

The Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) is warning Vermont business owners, nonprofits, and employees about an uptick in business imposter email scams.

In the last two months, CAP says it has received five reports of business imposter email scams resulting in a total loss of $210,799.

“Scammers are impersonating employees or familiar business representatives’ emails and contacting company bookkeepers and office administrators asking them to change bank account information, direct deposit information, or asking them to write checks,” according to a news release. “By impersonating an employee’s email address or creating a fake personal email for the employee, scammers can steal money from businesses and steal paychecks from employees.”

CAP says that Vermont businesses and nonprofits should always verify email addresses and speak directly with an employee or business representative in person or via phone when sending money or changing payment information. Scammers often use an email address that only slightly varies from an employee’s true email.

CAP also says to be wary of any email coming from outside your company’s domain. They urge business owners to educate their entire company on scams that target businesses.

Here are ways in which businesses and nonprofits can better protect themselves and their employees from scams:

• Cybersecurity assessment: check internal controls and resolve vulnerabilities.

• Train staff regularly in cybersecurity and funds management protocols.

• Enlist internal protocols to verify the transfer of funds by engaging multiple staff members and voice verification, using trusted contact information.

• Never send money to parties you cannot verify.

CAP advises all Vermonters being targeted by scammers to slow down and follow the SLOW method in urgent situations:

S — SLOW DOWN. Scammers pressure you to act urgently. Take time to regain your calm.

L — LOG THE CONTACT. Write down the phone number of the contact and disengage.

O — ONE CALL. Make one call to a trusted primary contact and discuss the incident.

W — WHO CARES? Call CAP to identify and report scams at 800-649-2424.

To learn more about how to protect your business from these scams, watch CAP’s “Avoiding the Business Imposter Email Scam” video and review the steps to verify at bit.ly/682-scam.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #682 (Wednesday, September 21, 2022). This story appeared on page A5.

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