It starts out innocuously enough when an important-looking email comes in to a company employee. The sender’s email address is that of the company’s CEO, claiming that a payment needs to be made to a client or vendor immediately.

The email, which contains some sense of urgency, tells the employee to wire transfer an amount of money, perhaps $50,000 or more, to a specific company or bank account. The reasons vary but follow a common theme: A vendor has a new bank account and prior payments to that vendor failed. The company is “late” on its payments and a purchase needs to be made for necessary products or services. Whatever the purpose, the CEO does not have the time to go through normal check-request procedures and requires a quick response.

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