Anyone can fall prey to a phishing scam – even a “Shark Tank” celebrity who advises entrepreneurs on how to run their businesses prudently.
It happened to Barbara Corcoran, one of the stars of “Shark Tank,” after she lost nearly $400,000 when a bookkeeper in her office received a bogus email.
And even though Corcoran ended up getting her money back, she undoubtedly suffered reputational and recovery costs, not to mention stress, anxiety and sleepless nights.
What makes the case especially notable – and terrifying – is that the wire fraud was perpetrated by a single, tiny typo in an email address.
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Shark Tank Star Scammed
Corcoran’s trouble started when an email purportedly sent by her executive assistant was forwarded to her bookkeeper. The email said Corcoran had okayed a $388,700.11 wire payment to a company in Germany for real estate renovations. On its face, the invoice raised no red flags because Corcoran’s company is heavily involved in real estate transactions.
However, the email was bogus. It didn’t come from the executive assistant, but from a phishing operation in China.
“The bookkeeper asked the standard questions, and all the answers seems to line up with Barbara’s real estate dealings in Germany,” reports USA Today. “However, the bookkeeper didn’t notice that the scammers changed the assistant’s email address by removing one letter, so unbeknownst to her, they were the ones actually communicating.”
After sending the wire payment to the indicated address, the bookkeeper contacted the assistant. That’s when she discovered they’d been scammed.
A Happy Ending: “I’m Thrilled”
Improbably, the horror story ended happily when Corcoran got her money back.
From USA Today: “I’m thrilled! I had already accepted it and moved on. Everyone told me I wouldn’t get the money back and it just seems unbelievable. The money was wired through a German bank on the way to the scammer’s Chinese account. But my bank put pressure on the German bank and they froze the money giving us time to prove it was fraud. I really thought it was a goner!
“Erich Kron, a security awareness advocate, for KnowBe4, a Clearwater, Florida-based firm that trains employees about how to detect phishing attacks before it’s too late, told USA TODAY email is ‘far and away the big one,’ due to volume,” reports USA Today.
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