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Exercise caution with all money transfer requests

The number of ways thieves can steal from you on the Internet is many. But one of the most insidious — albeit clever — might be a request for an urgent money transfer you receive via email that seems to come from your manager or company's finance chief.

Except that email didn't come from your manager or anyone inside your organization. Instead, it's a carefully crafted hoax sent from a con artist in a foreign country intended to trick you into wiring company funds into an account they control.

You don't have to look very hard to find examples. An employee of the municipality of Norwich contributed to nearly $250,000 lost by that Vermont town this year when s/he made four wire transfers in August thinking the requests had come from the Town Manager. They hadn't.

The lengths to which some crooks will go in order to pull off this type of theft can be surprisingly complex. It's not uncommon for scammers to register domain names deceptively similar to existing companies' and to study corporate org charts to locate specific employees to impersonate in order to fine tune their masquerade.

Luckily, the solution is pretty simple. Be vigilant. Confirm all requests for money transfers before hitting "Send" by calling the person who supposedly made the request or walking down the hall and getting confirmation face-to-face.

The extra effort can pay for itself many times over.