The Accounts Payable Manager received an email, supposedly from the Executive Assistant/Manager Special Projects.
The email included an attached invoice, asking AP to pay a whopping $120,000 balance immediately and to email a wire confirmation when done. The invoice looked legitimate enough, but the urgency of the request and the method of payment gave the AP professional pause.
In addition to asking the AP manager to pay a vendor that had not even been set up in the vendor master file, she was being asked to forego the organization’s established policies and procedures. According to these policies, a W-8BEN-E was required to validate and pay a foreign vendor.
Suspecting fraud, the AP manager responded to the requester asking that a W-8BEN-E be filled out so that the foreign vendor could properly be set up in the system. Immediately, an email response came back. The suspected “vendor” had attached a W-8BEN—the incorrect form.
From her 1099 and 1042 training, she was well-aware of the difference between a W-8BEN and a W-8BEN-E. She took an additional step to test her fraud theory and sent two test questions to the bogus in-house payment requester, saying:
“I sent you the correct form for the company (the W-8BEN-E form). The form that the vendor sent is for an individual. Please have the company fill out the correct form. Also, will you be generating a PO in AX when the system gets back up?”
The AP manager refused to issue the wire payment without the W8BEN-E or until the matter was investigated.
As suspected, the email was not generated from within the organization. A fraudster had hacked the company’s email system and obtained names of company employees. Using this information, the fraudster requested the wire payment be sent to a fictional company.
“Accounts Payable departments should never waver or cut corners when initiating payments to vendors, no matter how urgent the request. Follow the rules in place to avoid fraud within your organization.”
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