The scams have cost businesses around the globe more than $2bn in little over two years

Businessman Working With Computer

A scam in which criminals impersonate the email accounts of chief executives is on the rise.

A report by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has found that the scams have cost businesses around the globe more than $2bn in little over two years, according to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI has seen a sharp increase in business email crime which is also known as CEO fraud. More than 12,000 victims are affected globally.

In the scam, a criminal mimics a chief executive’s email account and directs an employee to wire money to an overseas bank account. By the time the company realises it has been duped, the money is gone.

The average loss is $120,000 but some companies have been tricked into sending as much as $90m to offshore accounts, US authorities say, the FT reports.

And the situation is be getting worse as reports of CEO fraud are accelerating.

Between October 2013 and August 2015, about $1.2bn globally was lost to the scheme.

That loss has increased by another $800m in the past six months. US authorities have traced the money involved to 108 countries.

The FBI said the rise in reported CEO frauds could be partly attributed to companies detecting the crime, but it also reflected the “simple nature” of the scheme that can be run from anywhere around the globe.

FBI money laundering chief James Barnacle said: “It’s easy. All you need is a computer.”

Most of the offshore bank accounts in which the money ends up are located in Asia or Africa.

The FBI has seen similarities between different CEO fraud schemes but it is not clear if there is one dominant global ring.