Redondo Beach-based firm Village View Escrow was recently hit for $465,000 by thieves who hijacked the company’s bank account electronically.
The cyber-thieves sent a fraudulent e-mail to the owner and to her assistant. Both women opened the e-mail, which secretly released a password-stealing virus onto their respective computers. Armed with the banking login information for both women, the hackers deactivated the customary advisory service and used the requisite two login credentials to issue electronic instructions to the escrow company’s bank to wire out various amounts of money to various other accounts. In total, 26 wire transfers were ordered, all of which were executed because of the two (apparently) legitimate login credentials. No confirming advisory messages for each transfer were sent to the escrow company because the cyber-thieves had disabled that notification feature using the stolen login credentials.
Some 20 individuals around the world received the wired money and re-transmitted it to the cyber-thieves after withholding a portion as payment for their services. Such intermediaries are known in the business as “mules”, and are often clueless about the criminal nature of their involvement in the scheme.
Working frantically after the theft was discovered, the escrow company owner managed to get $70,000 of the fraudulent wire transfers reversed. That left a $395,000 shortfall which the bank will not reimburse. The escrow owner had to take a loan to cover the shortfall at 12%, and can not even draw a salary as she tries to put the company back on its feet.
Several of the features built into InterComputer’s Trusted Banking solution would have stopped the illicit use of legitimate banking credentials before any wire transfers could have been ordered by the cyber-thieves.