Case in Point

Spoofed emails enable purchase-order fraud

This case involved a Nigerian crime ring that stole Apple computers and devices by impersonating U.S. defense officials. Make sure purchase orders pass the “smell test,” and call agencies to confirm.

I was the contract chief financial officer for a computer software and hardware reseller to government and government contractors. The case began one summer day with an email I received from the chief operating officer of the company, which I’ll call “NearWare.”

“Call me on my cellphone as soon as you get a chance,” the COO said. “The FBI just stopped by our office, and we have an urgent issue.” Now there’s a message that’ll get your heart racing. When I talked to the COO, it became clear that the group of military orders recently placed at NearWare for nearly $500,000 were fake.

The FBI described the fraud for us. A Nigerian crime ring would look online for contractors and then contact Apple and other manufacturers to get lists of their resellers for their products. Once they determined that a reseller sold to the government, they used their inside connections at military bases to order and arrange for receipt of orders — via  military-looking email addresses and live phone calls — which they would later sneak off the bases.


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