Johnston County Business Scammed Out Of $500,221

CLAYTON – A Johnston County business is reeling from the potential loss of more than a half million dollars after an employee fell victim to an online scam.  Law enforcement officers are investigating and working hard to try and recover the money.

The scam involved a cybercriminal spoofing a company email account, impersonating an employee for a vendor, and sending the customer fake invoices.   The scam is  sophisticated and targeted.

On June 11th, a Clayton-area business received an email from what they thought was a supplier.  The supplier claimed they were having issues with the IRS and could no longer receive payments by check. Instead they requested payments be made through a wire transfer.  The employee did not realize the email was a scam and not sent by their actual supplier.

The employee wired a payment of $500,221.98 to the bank routing number provided.  They didn’t realize at the time they had been scammed.  A couple of days later, when they received a second invoice with a request to wire payment to the United Kingdom, they realized something was wrong.

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office said they took a report from the business on June 17th and are investigating.  In this case, authorities said there is a good chance they can recover the money.  The case is unique because such a large amount of money was taken from a single victim.

As of 2018, these cybercrimes have cost businesses more than $5 billion.  In 2019, a school system in Kentucky paid $3.7 million when an employee unknowingly received a fake invoice.  Fortunately, the money was recovered because it was reported quickly.

Authorities urge businesses to take a close look at email addresses. Often times the fake email accounts are just a letter or digit different.  Look for appropriate grammar and language from the sender.  Some key words they frequently use are “urgent , immediate action, confidential, and private”.  Beware if they ask for confidential business information including banking information, usernames and passwords.   Compare new invoices you receive with previous invoices from the vendor. And never click on any link in a suspicious email.

Johnston County Report has a policy not to identify scam victims. We did not publish the business name because of our policy.