Beware the Business Email Impersonation Scam: A Guide to Protecting Your Company

In today’s digital age, businesses face an increasing number of cyber threats, with one of the most pernicious being the Business Email Impersonation (BEI) scam. Also known as Business Email Compromise (BEC), this form of cybercrime has cost companies billions of dollars worldwide. Understanding how these scams work and implementing measures to protect your organization is crucial for safeguarding your assets and maintaining trust with your partners and customers.

What is Business Email Impersonation?

Business Email Impersonation is a sophisticated form of phishing attack where scammers pose as trusted figures within a company—such as CEOs, executives, or trusted vendors—to deceive employees into transferring funds or disclosing sensitive information. These attacks are meticulously planned, often involving extensive research on the target company and its personnel.

How Does It Work?

  1. Research and Planning: Scammers gather information about the company and key employees through social media, company websites, and other online resources.
  2. Spoofing or Hacking: They either spoof an email address to look like it’s coming from a legitimate source or hack into an actual email account within the organization.
  3. Sending the Email: The scammer sends an email to a targeted employee, typically someone in finance or HR, with a request to transfer money, provide sensitive information, or click on a malicious link.
  4. Manipulation and Pressure: These emails often create a sense of urgency, pressure, or confidentiality to prevent the victim from verifying the request.

Real-World Examples

  • The CEO Scam: A scammer impersonates the CEO and sends an urgent email to the finance department requesting a wire transfer to a “vendor” who is actually the scammer.
  • Vendor Email Compromise: Hackers compromise a vendor’s email account and send fraudulent invoices to the company, which are then paid to the scammer’s account.
  • Payroll Diversion: An employee in HR receives an email that appears to be from an executive requesting changes to direct deposit information, redirecting paychecks to the scammer’s account.

Impact on Businesses

The financial implications of BEI scams can be devastating. Companies have lost hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars to these schemes. Beyond financial loss, these scams can damage a company’s reputation, lead to legal complications, and erode trust with clients and partners.

Protecting Your Business

  1. Employee Training: Regularly train employees on how to recognize phishing emails and the importance of verifying requests, especially those involving financial transactions.
  2. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Implement MFA for email accounts to add an extra layer of security.
  3. Email Filtering: Use advanced email filtering solutions to detect and block phishing attempts.
  4. Verification Procedures: Establish and enforce procedures for verifying requests for sensitive information or financial transactions, such as confirming requests by phone or through a secondary email address.
  5. Monitor Accounts: Regularly monitor email accounts for suspicious activity and set up alerts for unusual login attempts.
  6. Incident Response Plan: Have a plan in place for responding to email impersonation attacks, including steps for reporting the incident to authorities and communicating with stakeholders.


Business Email Impersonation scams are a serious threat that requires vigilance and proactive measures. By educating employees, implementing robust security protocols, and fostering a culture of verification and caution, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams. Stay informed, stay alert, and protect your organization from cybercriminals seeking to exploit trust and urgency for their gain.