The bosses of Wall Street banks Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are the latest executives to fall victim to an email prankster who has also managed to connect with the head of Barclays and the governor of the Bank of England.
While neither Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein nor his Citi counterpart Michael Corbat revealed any sensitive information, the exchanges will raise questions about the way banks' computer systems handle emails to addresses outside their companies.
Blankfein was drawn into the simple hoax when he replied to an email purporting to be from his company's president and co-chief operating officer, Harvey Schwartz, congratulating him on a tweet that Blankfein wrote last week on a trip to China about the country's impressive infrastructure.
“Tweet won some online award for humorous tweet — Trump will be so pissed ;)” the anonymous hoaxer, who used the Twitter handle @SINON_REBORN, said in a published exchange on the social media site pretending to be Schwartz.
New to Twitter
Blankfein, who only recently joined Twitter, replied to whom he thought was Schwartz, saying he had tweeted when he landed in China because it “seemed like a good way to bookend my trip.”
When asked about the incident, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs in New York said: “In the aftermath of the elections in France and England, I would have thought Reuters had more consequential events to report on.”
The prankster then attempted to draw in Corbat and Citi's head of global consumer banking, Stephen Bird, by masquerading as Citi's chairman Michael O'Neill.
Couldn't open link
The hoaxer sent Corbat and Bird an online article from British newspaper CityAM about the exchange between Blankfein and the emailer, according to the prankster's Twitter feed.
Corbat replied that he couldn't open the link.
Bird replied: “Can never be too careful Mike. Hope that's our real Chairman!” He then went on to describe Citi's email filtering system before commenting on Blankfein's mishap.
“At least Lloyd was responsive ... in the new economy that's something. Some of his peers are still getting their messages printed out.”
A spokeswoman for Citi in New York confirmed the existence of the email exchange but declined to comment further.
Hoax prompts changes
Due to concerns about hoaxing and security, a small group of the Wall Street elite refuses to say anything substantive in an email, text or chat, and some will not communicate digitally at all, Reuters reported in November.
Last month, Barclays chief Jes Staley became the first high profile executive to be caught out by the prankster, and the bank reportedly responded by tightening its computer security so employees get a warning whenever they are sending messages to someone outside the firm.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney was also targeted and replied to an email he believed was from the head of the central bank's internal oversight body, Anthony Habgood. In his response, Carney poked fun at the drinking habits of one of his predecessors.