Contact: Lloyd LaFountain, Superintendent
Phone: (207) 624-8570
TTY: Please Call Maine Relay 711
Maine’s Bureau of Financial Institutions Cautions Companies and Employees about Business Email Compromise (BEC) Scams
GARDINER – Maine’s Bureau of Financial Institutions is warning company owners and employees about Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams. Several banks in Maine have reported BEC attempts targeting their commercial customers.
“Business Email Compromise scams aren’t new, but their frequency and sophistication appear to be increasing,” Superintendent Lloyd LaFountain said. “Banks and credit unions have heightened their awareness about BEC scams, but it’s important for businesses—large and small—to know they can be targeted anytime.”
BEC scams, also referred to as CEO fraud, seek to obtain a wire transfer of money from an employee in the finance or Accounts Payables office of a business. This is done by sending an e-mail to the employee, or a series of messages, posing as a senior executive of the company. National reports indicate that the e-mails have become more convincing and more difficult to detect as being fraudulent. Additionally, some scammers are sending multiple messages over time to make sure they have the trust of their targets before asking for the wire transfer.
“Although some BEC attempts can be identified by closely reading the e-mail, these and other types of scams often evolve over time and become more difficult to recognize,” LaFountain said. “We live in an age when requests for money or for our personal information over the phone or through e-mail should be carefully evaluated and confirmed as being authentic.”
The Bureau of Financial Institutions encourages anyone receiving an e-mail requesting a wire transfer of funds to a vendor or other entity to double-check with the person requesting the transaction by speaking directly with that individual or sending a separate message to that person. Additionally, the Bureau reminds all consumers to never give out their Social Security Number, banking or credit card numbers or other personal information unless they are certain the request is legitimate. Further, the Bureau reminds the public that most financial institutions and government agencies never make these requests through unsolicited e-mails or phone calls.
More information about financial scams and personal financial literacy is available on the Bureau’s website www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions. Assistance with questions, concerns or other issues involving banks or credit unions can also be obtained by calling 1-800-965-5235 (toll free in Maine) or 207-624-8570.
The Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions is an agency within the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (www.maine.gov/pfr), which encourages sound business practices through high quality, impartial and efficient oversight of insurers, financial institutions, creditors, investment providers, and numerous professions and occupations.
Lloyd LaFountain, Superintendent
Bureau of Financial Institutions
Maine’s Bureau of Financial Institutions Warns Public about Phony Text Messages Sent to Bank and Credit Union Customers
GARDINER – Maine’s Bureau of Financial Institutions at the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation warns of a scam involving fraudulent text messages. The messages appear to come from a consumer’s bank or credit union and indicate that there is a problem with the consumer’s account or debit card. The scammers urgently request account and other personal information in order to fix the non-existent problem. The Bureau of Financial Institutions reminds consumers to look out for this scam and not to divulge bank or credit union account numbers or other personal information by text, phone or email.
The customers of several banks and credit unions received the text message. The message does not contain the name of any particular institution and appears randomly sent to cell phone numbers without targeting consumers at any particular institution. “Banks and credit unions will not text, call, or email customers asking them to divulge account numbers, pins or social security numbers,” Superintendent Lloyd P. LaFountain III said.
LaFountain emphasized that customers receiving unexpected calls, e-mails or text messages should call their bank or credit union directly and talk to an employee. He also noted that customers should always be vigilant to protect their personal information and monitor account statements.
If a consumer suspects he or she has received a scam text, the consumer should:
• Not return the text or call the number provided
• Never provide personal account information or other personal information in response to a text, call or e-mail. A bank or credit union does not request personal account information in such a manner.
The Bureau of Financial Institutions has a consumer library with helpful information about how consumers can spot and avoid financial scams. Also, the Bureau’s Consumer Outreach Specialist is available to answer any consumer questions related to financial scams or accounts in general. The Bureau’s phone number is 207-624-8570. The website is www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions/index.shtml.
Speaking to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on January 13th, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren reflected on the progress of the U.S. economy over the last year, calling December’s short-term interest rate increase by Fed policymakers an important milestone. The future path of rates, he said, will depend on incoming economic data, and how that data affects policymakers’ outlook for the economy.
“I hope the economy continues to improve, so that further normalization is appropriate. It is important, however, to carefully manage risks to the economy,” said Rosengren – adding that, in his view, further increases in rates are likely to be gradual. This gradual notion reflects the current economic landscape, including the fact that inflation remains well below the Fed’s 2 percent target.
Rosengren noted the good news on employment, with 292,000 jobs added in December, and an average of 284,000 jobs added per month over the past quarter. However, other news around the start of the year has been less positive, including weak stock markets in much of the world, weak oil and commodity prices, and falling estimates for fourth-quarter real GDP growth in the United States. “While monetary policy should not overreact to short-term, temporary fluctuations in financial markets, policy makers should take seriously the potential downside risks to their economic forecasts,” he said.
Rosengren observed that improvements in the economy “provided the conditions necessary for the Federal Reserve to finally begin removing some of the extraordinary monetary policy accommodation that was the necessary, appropriate, and effective response to the financial crisis, recession, and painfully slow recovery.” The first step in this gradual process was December’s increase in the federal funds rate – the first since the Great Recession. He added that the response to the increase was quite uneventful.
Given the extremely large volume of excess reserves in the market post-crisis, increasing the federal funds rate this time requires different tools: borrowing facilities with administered interest rates, rather than relying on changing the balance of reserves in the banking system to influence rates. “These administered rates help us create the top and bottom of the new target range for the federal funds rate.”
After the December FOMC meeting, the interest rate on reserves was set at 0.50 percent (the upper end of the target range) and the reverse repurchase rate was set at 0.25 percent (the lower end). The effective federal funds rate has traded in between those two rates all but one day (December 31). While December’s first increase was the beginning of normalization, Rosengren noted that rates remain well below their pre-crisis levels. He added that the Fed’s policy committee stated it “expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate.”