A Toronto-area contractor came to discover someone had hacked into his email and impersonated him and convincing customers of his family-owned granite countertop business to send thousands of dollars via e-transfer.
The fraudsters then stole the payments.
“You can’t think of something like this happening,” said Sarmen Sinani, of Markham, Ont.
“They [fraudsters] were saying, ‘Send me the money. And don’t send a cheque. Just e-transfer it.'”
Sinani is one of more than 200 people Go Public has learned were recently targeted by fraudsters who stole tens of thousands of dollars, sent via Interac e-transfers, by breaking into email accounts and redirecting the money.
It has some experts questioning why the popular electronic money transfer system involves email at all, when other jurisdictions have stronger security.
“Canadian customers deserve the best safety and security for their banking and e-transactions,” said cybersecurity expert Claudiu Popa, who advises governments and companies. “Unfortunately, we are far from getting there.”
Sinani was working on a customer’s order when he emailed her in March, asking for a 50 per cent deposit.By May, he still hadn’t received it, so he asked again.
To his surprise, his client said she had e-transferred it on March 15. Sinani searched through deleted emails and discovered a fraudster had impersonated him and told his client to e-transfer $2,775.
“The hacker would alter my conversation to them [his customer] and alter their conversation to me,” said Sinani. “Basically they were taking full control of two people, just going back and forth. It’s unbelievable.”
Posing as Sinani, the fraudster told his client he had an out-of-town family emergency and instructed her not to stop by the store to drop off a cheque.
Instead, the fraudster told her to send an e-transfer to a new email that appeared similar to the actual email for Sinani’s family business, Sinco Marble and Granite.
Then, the fraudster posed as Sinani’s client and altered her emails, telling Sinani that she was dealing with a family emergency and couldn’t come to the shop to pay the deposit.