Edmonton (May 5, 2020) – The Edmonton police disrupted an international multi-level Business Email Compromise (BEC) scam targeting personal protective equipment (PPE) and industrial equipment companies. As a result of the fraud investigation, the police helped recover the orders collectively worth more than $1.5 million. The police believe that scammers who are operating from Nigeria and London (UK) fraudulently ordered the products from Canadian, U.S., and Australian companies online by impersonating business contacts and compromised courier accounts. The highly sought-after N95 masks are among the fraudulently obtained products. Edmonton police are urging businesses to remain vigilant when dealing with potential clients online.
The Edmonton police announced that a fraud investigation disrupted an international multi-level BEC scam in a press release from April 30. The Edmonton police Economic Crimes Section recovered industrial equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) including N95 face masks from various Canadian, U.S., and Australian businesses with a combined value of more than $1.5 million.
The international multi-level BEC scam
Edmonton police believe that suspects who are operating from Nigeria and the U.K. have targeted various international PPE and industrial equipment companies.
According to the police, the scammers fraudulently ordered the products online while impersonating commercial companies. The bogus purchasers used altered emails, the names of associated company executives, and illegally obtained credit reference information.
When the products were shipped to warehouses across Canada and the U.S., the suspects allegedly coordinated a phony online pick-up from a courier company using compromised courier accounts. Hence, the order was shipped to England and then moved to companies with exporting connections to Nigeria.
‘Many companies around the world are dealing with various challenges right now just trying to financially stay afloat during this pandemic,’ stated Det. Jason Lapointe, of the EPS Economic Crimes Section. ‘Then they find themselves under attack by criminals from abroad that are attempting to fraudulently acquire various equipment, including PPE, destined to help those who are in desperate need of it. It’s unconscionable really.’
Canadian companies targeted
The targeted companies include an electronics company from Leduc. They informed the police in mid-March that they received a bogus purchase order for two-way radios worth approximately $18,000. The company reported that the order was made via email impersonating an executive with the waste management company Clean Harbors, who is known to the Leduc company through previous business transactions.
In a second email, the scammers instructed to re-direct the shipment to a location in Calgary, which made an employee of the electronics company suspicious. Subsequently, the employee contacted Clean Harbors directly and stopped the bogus order from being delivered.
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In early April, an Edmonton telecommunications equipment supplier lost $170,000 while sending fraudulently ordered equipment to a storage facility in the U.K. After the scam was revealed, the Edmonton police recovered another shipment worth $130,000. The Economic Crimes Section located the order at a shipment center in Ontario before it was sent to its final destination.
Furthermore, according to the police the suspects also placed orders at two Canadian corporations in Quebec and B.C. The orders included personal respirators and replacement N95 3M filters with a value of $100,000. The police located the shipments at separate loading facilities and returned it to the companies.
The EPS Economic Crimes Section is urging businesses to remain vigilant when dealing with potential clients online.
Read more: Combating BEC fraud