What is CEO fraud?

CEO fraud is a type of scam where a CEO, director, or another member of staff is impersonated by fraudsters. Their aim is to trick people into thinking a request is genuine because it came from a senior colleague.


Usually, fraudsters use this type of social engineering to ask people to change their payroll details, pay an invoice to a new account, purchase gift vouchers “for employees” and send them the codes or divulge sensitive data about the company, clients or employees.


This type of fraud is on the rise. As people work from home more often, they might have fewer opportunities to check with colleagues whether an email is genuine. 

How can you spot a CEO scam?

1. Check for signs of impersonation

If you receive an unexpected email, pay close attention to the email domain, and be cautious if it originated outside your organisation. However, bear in mind that fraudsters have the technology to spoof email addresses, too.

2. Verify all payment requests

Check directly if the request was genuine, preferably over the phone or video call. Do not call back on a number in the body of an email, as fraudsters can manipulate this. Sourcing a number from your corporate directory is ideal.

3. Think twice before sharing data

Be careful about sharing sensitive data with colleagues. Always verify that the request is genuine by talking to the person who requested the information and making sure they have the necessary permission to view it. 

How can you protect your business from CEO scams?

Talk about it

Make sure employees know about CEO fraud, that they should approach senior staff to verify payment requests, and are aware of the types of requests they may receive in their roles. 

Have a process for payments

Implement four or six-eye checks on payments and make sure that everyone checks for irregularities before instructing a payment or changing bank details.

Implement firewall controls

Effective firewalls block or highlight emails that originate from outside your organisation, making it easier for people to notice that something is not right.

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