The accountant wire transfer scam, which is a scam that has been with us for a long time appears, in recent months, to be occurring with even greater frequency. The scam starts with the accounting firm receiving an email purporting to be from one of their clients instructing the accounting firm to wire funds to a vendor, which often may be out of the country, on behalf of the client. The email generally indicates that this is an emergency and the funds must be transferred immediately and that the client is traveling and unavailable to speak by phone. The email may appear to be legitimate and may indeed even come from the email address of the client, however, the accountant soon learns that the request for a wire transfer is phony and money transferred is lost and the accounting firm is on the hook for the funds it transferred to the scammer.
This kind of scam has a number of aspects that should arouse suspicion. The emergency nature of the requested transfer coupled with the inability of the client to speak with the accountant by phone are definitely signs of a possible scam. The amount being requested to be wired in these types of scams also generally does not match typical business expenditures authorized by the client. In once case, an accounting firm wired $450,000 without confirming the legitimacy of the request. It is important to remember that hacking into and taking control of someone’s email address so a communication may appear to be legitimate is a simple matter to a skilled scam artist. They are not called scam artists for nothing. Accounting firms and any fiduciary with access to the funds of a client should never transfer funds in response to an electronic communication without a confirming phone call to the client.