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World's most gullible supermarket chain falls victim to online scam

Trying to get back $10m wired to bogus accounts

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Red-faced accountants from one of the biggest supermarket chains in the US are frantically trying to regain control of more than $10m lost after falling victim to online fraudsters.

Evidently, no one at Minnesota-based Supervalu bothered to confirm the authenticity of emails sent in late February. Purporting to come from two of the company's suppliers, the messages instructed Supervalu to wire all future payments to new bank accounts. One email purported to come from representatives of Frito-Lay and the other from American Greetings. Both suppliers have established relationships with the grocery chain.

The emails were phony, but within two days, Supervalu began moving money into the accounts. Over the course of a week, the company transferred $10,128941.94 in nine separate payments. One account was administered by HSBC Bank in Miami and the other by First Security Bank in Arkansas. Once Supervalu discovered the accounts were bogus, it alerted federal authorities, which quickly froze the accounts before the scammers could withdraw the money.

The sad tale was outlined in documents filed in US District Court in Idaho. Attorneys for Supervalu, which owns the Albertsons chain, are arguing that the company should recover the full amount because it was a victim, has committed no wrongdoing, and has cooperated fully with investigators. Gross gullibility is no legal deterrent to getting the money back, we gather.

The story was reported earlier by Computerworld. A Supervalu spokeswoman told the site that "due to our internal controls and processes, we were able to quickly discover and report this to the FBI." Any losses are likely to be minimal, she said. ®

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