Perhaps 100 times a year, Des Moines cybersecurity firm ProCircular gets a call from a company that has sent money to someone it shouldn’t have.

Often it happens like this: A vendor or business partner sends an email providing a new bank account number for wire transfers. Only later, after thousands or millions of dollars have been wired to the new account, does the company learn the email was a fake, said Brandon Potter, ProCircular’s Chief Technical Officer.

“If it wasn’t successful, they wouldn’t be doing it,” Potter said. “It is one of the top risks and threats right now, from a cybersecurity and fraud standpoint.

Known as business email compromise, or BEC, scams, the cons are among the most lucrative forms of crime online. According to an FBI report published in March, more than 19,000 such scams were reported in 2020, with losses totaling roughly $1.8 billion. By comparison, the federal law enforcement agency tallied…

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