Up to €157,000 was withdrawn by unknown people from a company based in Limassol, using a similar e-mail to the owner and giving an order for the payment of invoices, police said on Friday.
According to a police statement, an employee of the company reported that during the months of May and June, she received four messages to her office e-mail that appeared to have been sent by one of the owners of the company. A total of four invoices were attached to the e-mails with instructions for their payment, with transfers to specific bank accounts in foreign countries.
The employee proceeded to pay the four invoices, for the amounts of €45,000, €49,000, €63,000 and €144,000 respectively, with four different transfers from the company’s bank account.
On Wednesday, the employee received a suspicious e-mail and after suspecting that she might have been the victim of fraud, she informed the owner of the company, who confirmed that he had never sent the e-mails, nor given instruction for payment.
A subsequent search revealed that the suspicious messages had been sent from an email account that closely resembled the company owner’s differing only in one letter.
The company immediately informed the bank, through which four remittances were made and the withdrawal of the last remittance of €144,000 was returned to the company.
However, the other three transfers had already proceeded and the corresponding banks abroad were informed.
The police once again caution the general public, and in particular owners and staff of companies that manage online payments, to be vigilant.
This specific type of electronic fraud, so-called Invoice Fraud” is particularly widespread and mainly threatens companies that do business with other companies abroad, the police said.
The police recommend that staff be alerted to this danger and that companies should put into place a process for verifying the legitimacy of payment requests, such as a phone confirmation that the message is indeed from a genuine business partner or colleague.
In the event of a suspected fraud attempt the case should be immediately reported to the police.