Criminals have found a novel way to intercept wire transfers for down payments. Can a small team of Secret Service agents prevent your worst real estate nightmare?
For weeks, the Secret Service agent had been trying to identify the scammers moving millions of stolen dollars through banks around the New York tri-state area. His quest had begun on a quiet afternoon in May 2020, when the streets of New York were still mostly empty. Cases were moving slowly, and legal processes were delayed. The agent was restless, trying to keep busy during what he thought would be a short-lived pandemic.
Sitting in his office, in a gray tower near the Brooklyn Bridge, the agent, whom we’ll call Alex (he asked to protect his identity because of the undercover nature of his job), started the routine process of scouring a government database called the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The IC3, as the database is known, is accessible to all domestic law enforcement agencies and spans more than two dozen types of crimes, including credit card frauds, ransomware attacks, and identity thefts. Last year it received an average of more than 2,300 cybercrime complaints a day, about one every 37 seconds. Alex was looking for business email compromises, or BECs, a type of scam where hackers infiltrate corporate accounts to send fake wire requests, such as an invoice or a contract pay