RCMP are investigating possible fraud against the town of Irishtown-Summerside on the west coast of Newfoundland, just north of Corner Brook.
RCMP said they suspect an email thread between the city and a legitimate vendor was hacked and the person or people behind it redirected an electronic bill payment to their account.
Cpl. RCMP media relations officer Jolene Garland said Friday that police received a report of fraud over $5,000 from the city on March 29.
“It appears that a fraudster hacked into the city’s email address and obtained information from a chain mail,” Garland said.
“The fraudster then began communicating with the city via email, posing as a legitimate seller, and providing instructions on how to pay the bill in the form of an email money transfer. “
Garland said whoever was behind the hack tried the exact same thing a second time, weeks later, posing as a different provider – but using the same email address they had used the first time. That’s when the city realized something was wrong, Mayor Barry Wheeler said.
Residents ripped off
In the weeks that followed, private residents were also scammed, Wheeler said. He said at least two people were defrauded but one was able to recover his losses through his bank. The scammers had sent an email offering a discount on property taxes if paid electronically.
“Town residents came to show us emails they were receiving from an individual or individuals claiming to be the town seeking payment for our tax bills,” Wheeler said, who declined. to quote the amount levied from the city. , citing the ongoing investigation.
“Any amount of money that we’ve lost from the municipality’s perspective, and any amount that our residents are losing, that’s important. When you look at it, we’re the guardians of the city’s finances and we’re supposed to be responsible for being really good goalkeepers.”
Wheeler said the city audited its IT infrastructure and there was no evidence of the theft of personal or private information.
He said the scam was elaborate in that the person or people behind it mimicked the city’s emails, right down to signing. For now, the city has stopped all electronic payments and is returning to physical checks.
“Everything felt legit,” Wheeler said.
Garland said the scam would not be local, but in Canada.
She said the police had a search warrant for the email the money was sent to. Once that is processed, they will know which Canadian financial institution the funds were deposited with, Garland said, and another warrant will be issued for account holder information.
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