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Phishers Nearly Pull Off $10M Scam of Grocer

By Jaikumar Vijayan
October 29, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Just like unwary individuals, large corporations can sometimes get suckered by devious phishers into parting with money.

For example, grocery chain Supervalu Inc. earlier this year was conned into depositing more than $10 million into two fraudulent bank accounts before it discovered the ruse.

Details of the incident are contained in documents filed in federal court in Idaho in connection with a case seeking to determine ownership of the funds.

Supervalu obeyed e-mails telling it to transfer payments to new bank accounts.
In the filing, Stephen Kilgroff, Avice president of legal affairs at Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu, said the fraud took place in late February and early March.

On Feb. 26 and 28, he said, the company received two fraudulent e-mails  one purporting to be from an employee at American Greetings Corp., and a second supposedly from an employee at Pepsi­Co Inc.s Frito-Lay Inc. unit. Both of those firms are approved Supervalu suppliers, according to the filing.

Both fraudulent e-mails sought to get Supervalu to send future payments to new bank accounts.

Between Feb. 28 and March3, Kilgroffs filing said, Supervalu deposited more than $6.5million via multiple wire transfers to an HSBC Holdings PLC account listed in the fake American Greetings message.

And on March 2, Supervalu said it made eight separate wire transfers totaling $3.6 million to First Security Bank in Rogers, Ark., as requested in the second e-mail.

Around March6, according to the filings, Supervalu determined that it had been induced into depositing money into bogus accounts, and quickly notified federal law enforcement, which then recovered most of the money before it could be withdrawn by the scammers.

In an e-mail, a spokeswoman for Supervalu acknowledged the fraud but noted that due to our internal controls and processes, we were able to quickly discover and report this to the FBI. As a result of the quick work of the Boise FBI office and the U.S. Attorney, any funds lost are minimal.

The company declined to comment further on the incident.

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