Hacker attack costs $25,000

WATCH OUT: Rosedale-based dive and spearfishing business Wettie has been targeted by an email scam leaving owner Darren Shields $25,000 out of pocket.
WATCH OUT: Rosedale-based dive and spearfishing business Wettie has been targeted by an email scam leaving owner Darren Shields $25,000 out of pocket.

Overseas hackers have conned three Auckland businesses out of tens of thousands of dollars in an elaborate email scam.

The Albany and Devonport-based businesses fell victim to the ruse when placing email orders with Chinese suppliers.

Rosedale dive and spearfishing retailer Wettie was targeted when owner Darren Shields placed an order with his Taiwanese supplier of more than 20 years.

"I send them an order over email, they put it together and send me the invoice.

"What's happened here is the hackers have intercepted the email, changed the bank account details and that's how it's landed in my inbox." There was nothing to suggest it was not legitimate, Mr Shields says.

The invoice was identical to those he normally receives, right down to the logo and signature at the bottom of the message - only it requested payment into a different bank account.

"It's not that unusual, especially when you're dealing with Asian suppliers. Three others have asked us to pay into different accounts recently so that alone wasn't enough to ring alarm bells," Mr Shields says.

Even a query about why the account had changed was answered by hackers posing as staff known to Mr Shields.

"They even sent a follow-up message to say thank you for payment like we usually get. All of the emails had the name and contact details of who I usually deal with at the factory."

Mr Shields was contacted several weeks later by his suppliers demanding payment for his order.

"I was arguing with them until eventually it dawned on us both what had happened. As far as they're concerned it's our problem and we've

had to repay the order."

He is now $25,000 out of pocket.

"It's gut-wrenching, I would hate to be a young person trying to get a business off the ground. It could be the end of it."

Mr Shields says it has been a tough lesson and has brought about more strict ordering processes.

"Any change of account, we get them to fax it to us and that's followed up with a phone call. It takes a bit longer, but if it means we avoid another scam it is worthwhile."

Devonport mirror demister business Nu-Klear has been hit by a similar scam on an order worth $18,000.

North Shore Police detective Chris Blake says business owners should not be embarrassed to be overly cautious when dealing with foreign suppliers.

"Even if you've dealt with the same company for many years, don't be afraid to phone the person you always deal with if you get a request that slightly differs from your usual routine," Mr Blake says.

"We'd urge people to phone suppliers, rather than email."


North Harbour Business Association offers information on crime prevention.

In partnership with the New Zealand Internet Task Force the association is working to provide information and support on cyber security and current trends in scams.

NHBA crime prevention manager Anna-Louise Crane says it is almost impossible for any businesses targeted by this kind of crime to have their money returned.

She urges anyone who is a victim to contact her. Phone 968 2222 or email anna.crane@nhba.org.nz.

North Shore Times