Email scam targets local business

Published 3:51 pm Thursday, November 30, 2017

On Wednesday, one Greenville business contacted Safe Harbor, Butler County’s advocacy center for children, regarding a rather strange email that detailed an invoice for some bills the company owed.

The correspondence warned the business that records indicated some payments on their account were still due. The whole letter was signed innocuously with a Safe Harbor email address at the bottom.

The problem here, of course, is that Safe Harbor is a nonprofit organization; there are no accounts to speak of, because there are no Safe Harbor bills or invoices.

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The business had become one of the first, but perhaps not the last, victims of a scam targeting local businesses under the guise of a Safe Harbor email.

Lt. Joe Disney with the Greenville Police Department spoke with Safe Harbor, whose representatives expressed concern that other businesses may be targeted by the same deceitful email.

Authorities tracked the scam to a company based out of Marshfield, Wisconsin called Badger Housing Associates but, as it turned out, it was also also a victim.

“Their email server had been hacked over the past month or so, and somebody was sending out emails under one of their email addresses,” Disney said.

“It was basically a scam.”

The address responsible for sending the email was, though there could be others.

“If anyone has received something from that email address, or anything to do with Safe Harbor that’s asking for payments, invoices, billing or anything like that, it is a scam,” Disney added.

“Don’t do it. Contact us. We don’t want anybody to send any money to these people. They’ve definitely targeted one business, and we feel that there may be more to come. So we want to try to nip it before someone does send money off.”

The scammers’ scheme is not without holes, however.

Despite efforts to pass off the email as an invoice—complete with a fake invoice number at the top of the message—the email itself doesn’t include the amount of money owed.

Instead, it asks recipients of the email to visit a suspicious website URL, which Disney said is most likely laced with potentially harmful viruses, in order to take care of the payment.

In addition to recommending skepticism of such emails, Disney said that there is a clear distinction between a nonprofit organization asking for donations and sending questionable invoices or bills.

“Of course, Safe Harbor will except any and all donations,” Disney said.

“But they do not bill anybody and they do not send any invoices out.”