STAR OF SHARK TANK TARGETED IN COMMON PHISHING SCHEME
Barbara Corcoran, real estate expert and co-star of the television show Shark Tank, revealed that she was recently the victim of a common email phishing scam. The fraud incident demonstrates that even savvy, high profile individuals are targeted. Ms. Corcoran is a senior citizen, but these scams can happen to anyone. Corcoran nearly lost $400,000 after a phony email was sent to her company. Here’s how it happened: a fake invoice was generated and sent to Corcoran’s bookkeeper, purportedly by her assistant. This invoice confirmed and “approved” a payment for a real estate renovation. Corcoran’s bookkeeper unwittingly communicated with the scammer, who used an email address almost exactly like Corcoran’s assistant’s address. The funds were wired to the scammer and Corcoran’s bookkeeper copied her real assistant, who was shocked to see her name on the correspondence. This scam is not uncommon, especially in the real estate industry. According to Corcoran, “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.”
Business professionals need to be aware of this scam and scrutinize all emails and calls. A protocol for transfers of funds should always include a process to personally authenticate the transaction, in advance, with the professional authorizing the transaction. In addition, comprehensive fraud monitoring can analyze and identify irregular transactions and alert designated individuals within the company. In Ms. Corcoran’s case, the irregular transaction was identified soon enough for the scam to be thwarted. After her bank was notified, they were able to freeze the stolen funds, which had been wired to Germany by the scammer.