“Shark Tank” TV star loses almost $400,000 in Business Email Compromise scam

Barbara
Corcoran, one of the business moguls who head up the judging team on US TV’s
“Shark Tank” investment show, has lost nearly $400,000 to an email
scammer.

According to media reports, a scammer – posing as Corcoran’s executive assistant – forwarded Corcoran’s bookkeeper an invoice earlier last week, requesting that payment be made.

The
invoice asked that US $388,700.11 be transferred electronically into a
German-based bank account, claiming to belong to a company called FFH CONCEPT
GmbH.

Unfortunately,
the truth was that the email did not really originate from Corcoran’s executive
assistant.  Instead, the scammers had
created an email address that looked the same as the executive assistant’s,
apart from a difference in one single letter.

Sadly,
Corcoran’s bookkeeper did not spot the minor difference in the email address,
and so when she asked questions such as the purpose of the payment, her
communication went straight to the scammers rather than the genuine assistant.

On
Tuesday this week, seemingly satisfied by the answers she had been given by the
scammers posing as Barbara Corcoran’s executive assistant, the bookkeeper
transferred almost $400,000 into the bank account controlled by the scammers.

It was
only when the bookkeeper cc’d Corcoran’s assistant directly (rather than by
replying to one of the scam emails) with confirmation that the money transfer
had been made that it became dramatically clear that something had gone
terribly wrong.

Speaking to People magazine, Barbara Corcoran appeared remarkably upbeat about the theft:

“I
lost the $388,700 as a result of a fake email chain sent to my company. It was
an invoice supposedly sent by my assistant to my bookkeeper approving the
payment for a real estate renovation. There was no reason to be suspicious as I
invest in a lot of real estate. I was upset at first, but then remembered it
was only money.”

It’s
good that Corcoran is showing such a positive attitude, as it seems unlikely
she will be able to recover the money from the fraudsters.

If
even a businesswoman with the profile of Barbara Corcoran can have money stolen
by scammers then it can happen to anyone. 
All of us need to be on our guard, looking for clues that invoices might
not be legitimate, or emails may have originated from outside the company, to
reduce the chances of a theft succeeding.

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