An email phishing scam has cost “Shark Tank” host Barbara Corcoran close to $400,000.
She said her bookkeeper received an email from someone posing has Corcoran’s assistant with a request for a renovation payment.
Corcoran told People magazine there was “no reason to be suspicious” about the email, as the bookkeeper continued to communicate with the person she thought was the assistant.
Lesson learned: Be careful when you wire money! https://t.co/ICW7ij9N8V
— Barbara Corcoran (@BarbaraCorcoran) February 26, 2020
The bill was paid by wire transfer to the email address on Tuesday.
How the Scam Was Uncovered
Corcoran’s staff uncovered the scam when the bookkeeper later emailed the actual assistant detailing the payment. The real assistant went back and noticed a hacker altered her email.
“The money was wired to the scammer yesterday and my bookkeeper copied my assistant, who was shocked to see her name on the correspondence. The detail that no one caught was that my assistant’s email address was misspelled by one letter, making it the fake email address set up by the scammers,” Corcoran said.
But after the hack was discovered, it was too late for Corcoran to recover any of the money.
“I was upset at first, but then remembered it was only money,” Corcoran told People.
TMZ was the first outlet to report the scam. It traced the hack to a legitimate marketing company in Germany — FFH Concept GmbH.
Corcoran’s IT department then traced the emails back to a Chinese IP address, according to TMZ.
What happened to Corcoran, can happen to anyone.
Once prominent telephone scams have now moved to cyberspace in the form of email scams, similar to what Corcoran fell prey to.
Gail Ennis, inspector general at the Social Security Administration, has issued a new warning for the general public to be extremely vigilant of telephone scammers that are now using email to threaten innocent victims and convince them to fork over sensitive information like Social Security numbers, bank account information or even payment to stop the harassment.
You can spot scams in different ways. Looking for grammatical errors and misspellings of common words is one way to stay vigilant. It’s important to pay close attention because scammers will use official letterheads and a lot of fancy government jargon in their attempts to pull the wool over your eyes.
Here are some other ways you can spot potential email scams:
- The email threatens you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee.
- You are promised a benefit increase of other assistance in exchange for payment.
- Someone requires payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency or prepaid debit card.
- You receive an “official” letter or report with personal information via email.
Most government correspondence comes in the mail. That includes any payments you may need to make.
Tax season is another prime time for scammers to ramp up activity. They may attempt to get your Social Security number or even ask for your tax return information before you file.
What You Can Do
The important thing is to read these emails carefully. Anyone asking for personal information or money via an email should be looked at with particular scrutiny.
Don’t respond to threats or any other nefarious emails as they could be attempts to hack into your computer.
If you spot a potential scam, make sure to report it to your local law enforcement agency immediately.