CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY)- A small business owner is issuing a warning to others after her business unknowingly paid fraudsters $900,000.
Ocean Marine Inc. has been selling underwater imaging equipment in the Tidewater area for more than 20 years. President Jeanne Dorsey said the company was brought to its knees last month after its vendor’s email account was hacked.
Hackers posed as financial representatives for Washington state-based Sound Metrics. They wrote to an Ocean Marine employee that the company had changed banks, and payments should go to a new Bank of America account. The employee completed several wire transfers to the criminal account totaling $889,532.
“It brings me to my knees. I’ve worked hard to build this company for over 20 years and never ever ever has anything like this happened,” Dorsey said. “I preach due diligence all the time because of the nature of the products we sell. Our government doesn’t want them to get into the wrong hands.”
The mistake was discovered when a Sound Metrics employee contacted Ocean Marine Inc. asking when payments would be sent.
“Neither my employee or our vendor’s employee bothered to pick up the phone because it’s just easier to shoot an email,” Dorsey said.
Dorsey said she notified her bank, Towne Bank, immediately. She also submitted a tip to the FBI but said she didn’t hear anything from the agency for weeks. 10 On Your Side asked the FBI about the incident, and Dorsey said that’s when they got involved.
Dorsey said the FBI’s involvement was crucial to getting the attention of Bank of America. A Bank of America spokesman, Bill Halldin, told 10 On Your Side that the bank can’t give account information to third parties.
“In cases like this, we immediately lock down accounts when were notified by another financial institution to secure funds that are in the account,” Halldin said. “We then work closely with the other financial institutions to recover any funds as soon as possible.”
Dorsey said she has little hope the funds will be recovered and that she and her business partner are in part using their own money to pay Sound Metrics.
“This brought the company to its knees but I don’t think it’s going to kill it off. Or hopefully, I think it’s not,” Dorsey said.
She warned that others should look for warning signs of fraud in emails, such as subtle changes in email addresses. For example, the criminals in her case used the email address “joe@sound metrics.com” replacing just one letter.
Anyone who is a victim of a cybercrime should notify the FBI and police immediately. Complaints can be filed at ic3.gov.