Business Email Compromise (BEC) Fraud (or CEO Fraud) is similar to Invoice Redirection Fraud however in this case junior employees in the finance department of a company receive an email from a fraud perpetrator purporting to be the Chief Executive Officer stating that an important deal or some other urgent matter is pending and that a substantial payment needs to be processed immediately. Overawed by the involvement of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and the tone of the email which generally insists on secrecy, the employee acts on the email instruction and transfers a substantial sum of money to the specified bank to close the deal. It subsequently transpires when the employee plucks up the courage to tell someone else, that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is oblivious to the transaction and that the email provided was false. By the time the fraud is detected the money is often gone.

Type 1:

Business Email Compromise (BEC) Fraud typically begins with fraudsters either phishing an executive and gaining access to his mailbox, or emailing employees from a domain name that’s very similar to the target’s domain name (but off by one or two characters). The fraudsters have usually taken the time to understand the target organization’s management structure; in this way finance execs can be duped into creating financial transfers without going through proper authentication processes.

Type 2:

For example, an accounting manager or controller is notified by email that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) wants a money transfer for what appears to be valid business reasons. They follow directions, thinking the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has initiated the request—and not realizing that they are sending money to cyber fraudsters.

Type 3:

Another technique is to pose as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and describe the need for the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) (or someone else in accounting) to act as part of a “secret project” can’t be discussed with anyone else at the company. These phony emails typically also stress the urgency of completing the wire transfer as quickly as possible.

Type 4:

Fraudulent methods are also becoming increasingly sophisticated. These type of fraudsters know how to pull off the crime without raising suspicions. They use language specific to the targeted company, along with dollar amounts that don’t raise eyebrows. 

Type 5:

To make matters worse, the fraudsters often employ malware to infiltrate company networks. This gives fraudsters access to legitimate e-mail threads about billing and invoices, making the transfer request appear more credible.

Type 6:

Instead of making a payment to a trusted supplier, the fraudsters direct payment to their own accounts. Sometimes they succeed at this by switching a trusted bank account number by a single digit. Cyber fraudsters, who have the resources to research and target hundreds of companies, work on the law of averages.


MR. BAS A.S. VAN LEEUWEN (LL.M., ESQ.), attorney at law and forensic auditor, assists clients with criminal matters, administrative supervision and enforcement cases, and internal and external investigations. Cases involving accusations of fraud, bribery, money laundering, corruption or violations, financial mismanagement, of international sanctions seriously disrupt a client’s operations and damage their reputation. At a client’s request, the attorney can conduct internal investigations, advice, litigate and negotiate with regulators and the Public Prosecution Service. He delivers swift solutions that address the underlying problems for urgent matters. Sometimes, his clients are injured by non-compliant conduct; sometimes they find themselves accused of the same.