Today’s “bank robbers” know it’s far easier to rob someone with a computer or a telephone than with a gun – and it’s safer, too. Electronic theft began in the early ‘80s as banks began implementing computer systems to track customer accounts. Criminals quickly learned that getting into a customer’s electronic account is much easier to access “through the front door,” using a customer’s personal information. The same principle holds true today. Wire fraud can occur through the phone, fax, email or online, and the losses average hundreds of thousands of dollars per incident. That’s a lot of money moving around, often without ever hearing the person’s voice. Criminals have countless methods for convincing a bank to wire large sums of money to another account, but the results tend to be similar: • a fax to a bank with a customer’s information that the customer did not send • a memo from a call with the “customer” which the customer never made • an email from the customer’s account that the customer did not write • a confirmation phone call to the number listed in the account, only to later find the number has been temporarily diverted by the criminal, meaning the verbal confirmation comes from the thief, not the customer The victims can be individuals, but businesses are more likely to fall prey to these schemes since they tend to carry heftier account balances than individuals. Small businesses are targeted the most frequently. They generally lack the complex security measures of larger organizations and criminals find it much easier to access sensitive information. The majority of fraudulent foreign wire transfers wind up in Asia, Eastern Europe or Africa. These international transfers are the most dangerous because there is no government protection and no way to reverse the process. Domestic fraud isn’t uncommon either. In the United States, wire transfers have some safeguards in place to manage fraud, but it should be assumed that once a transfer is made, there is no way to bring the money back. The responsibility for the stolen money could fall on the account holder and/or the bank depending on the circumstances.