SINGAPORE - Businesses in Singapore lost around $43 million last year to e-mail impersonation scams, with one case alone accounting for $5.7 million, said the Singapore Police Force (SPF) on Friday (Feb 9).
The fast-growing scam involves hackers impersonating company executives or business partners in spoofed e-mails which closely resemble genuine e-mail addresses.
Such scams hit a record 328 cases in 2017 - the highest in three years. Police figures show 257 cases in 2016 with a total of $25 million in funds lost.
E-mail impersonators were the biggest contributor to at least $99 million lost last year to scams involving e-commerce transactions, criminals posing as officials from China and people fleecing those looking for love online, among others.
Police had earlier revealed that Internet love scams also hit a record $37 million here last year, with one victim forking out almost $6 million to fraudsters.
Hackers who use e-mails to dupe their victims often target businesses with frequent overseas dealings.
In March 2015, a foreign firm in Singapore was hit in this fashion. The 38-year-old general manager of the machinery trading business said the firm was corresponding with a supplier in Singapore when the scammers struck.
"They altered the e-mail a bit so it still looked like they were our (Singapore) supplier, and even copied the accountant of our real supplier in the e-mail thread," he told the media on Friday.
The firm subsequently transferred about €119,000 ($193,891) to a fake account at a Polish bank, which was not detected by the firm's accountant as she was on leave at the time.
The money was meant for industrial equipment from Europe. The firm lodged a police report in Singapore within the same month. Fortunately, the scammers could not access the funds.
He said the money was held by Polish authorities because the "sum was abnormally large".
With the help of the Singaporean and Polish authorities, the money was fully recovered in July 2017.