A BRITISH ENERGY FIRM was scammed out of $243,000 via a vishing scheme, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Vishing, for those unaware, takes the slightly ludicrous term of ‘phishing' and ups the ante by subbing in a ‘V', which stands for ‘voice.' In other words, it's tricking automated systems or humans with a soundalike, rather than relying on text and promises of wealth from deposed but friendly Nigerian royalty.
The firm hasn't been named, but this is how it went down, according to the paper. Back in March, criminals used some commercially available voice AI software to do its best impression of the CEO of the firm's parent company, based in Germany.
The AI's impression of a German accent was good enough to fool the British subsidiary's CEO, with the fraudsters able to convince him to wire $243,000 to a "Hungarian supplier" in an hour, with the promise that it would be reimbursed immediately.
To the gullible CEO's credit, he was very much once bitten and twice shy. When the scammers phoned back as the Germany boss a second time, the British CEO refused to make another payment, having not yet been reimbursed for the first transfer.
The culprits haven't been found yet, though the funds apparently went from Hungary to Mexico and then on to other locations.
While the firm was insured and ultimately reimbursed for their losses by Euler Hermes Group, there's a real lesson for businesses in the years ahead. We're naturally suspicious of dodgy emails because we know how easy they are to spoof, but your ears remain trustingly naive. And if off-the-shelf voice mimicking software can unlock $243,000 from a short phone call, you can bet others will soon want a piece of that action. µ
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