Financial fraud has always been a problem, but the Internet has enabled entirely new ways of stealing money. We recently received an alert about a new scheme to defraud advisors and their clients.
The scam begins with an email to an advisor that includes a bogus invoice. The email appears to come from a client, and it includes a request to send money directly to the business listed on the invoice. The invoice might appear to be for purchases such as antiques or art, or for such things as attorney fees or legal settlements. The advisor sends the money, and the fraud is complete.
The payee is often in a foreign country or at an overseas bank. This makes it nearly impossible to catch the thieves or reclaim the money. The FBI estimates that more than 2,000 victims lost more than $214 million to this scam between October 2013 and December 2015.
My firm has a policy of not sending clients’ money to third parties based on email communication alone. But we go beyond simply confirming client requests by phone. It is our policy to get to know our clients personally. We know if they have a pattern of sending money to third parties. In all cases, we require a written letter of authorization as well as verbal confirmation from the client before any money is sent out.
The recent news that personal information about more than 20 million government employees, contractors and others was stolen highlights the importance of the security of your financial information. It also makes dealing with a financial firm where you are an individual, not a number, increasingly important.
NOTE: We recently submitted this article to NerdWallet who posted it on their Advisor Voices board.