A small town of just over 6,000 New England residents is facing the fallout from an email fraud scheme that cost it about $ 2.3 million. Officials in the city of Peterborough, New Hampshire, made the announcement on Monday after an investigation that began on July 26, the Associated press reported.
Peterborough is located in southern New Hampshire and approximately 35 miles southwest of Manchester, the largest city in the state.
The problem was first noticed when city officials discovered that the local ConVal school district had not received a monthly funding transfer of $ 1.2 million. Later, on August 18, authorities discovered that another planned transfer of around $ 1.2 million had not been sent to a contractor working on a local bridge project.
The investigation found the root of the problem in e-mail exchanges with the city’s finance department. It emerged that cyber thieves were posing as school staff using fake emails and documents to trick the city government into sending them money. Although the specific method was not specified, the AP reported that “similar means” were also used to obtain the money for the construction of the bridge.
“It hurts us to inform the residents and taxpayers of Peterborough that, like so many other cities, we have been the victims of an internet crime which has defrauded our taxpayers,” said the chairman of the board. de Select, Tyler Ward and city administrator, Nicole MacStay. the incident in a joint statement.
“It’s really a punch for sure,” Select board member William Kennedy told NBC 10 on Monday.
The AP has indicated that Peterborough will not be able to recover the stolen money by trying to reverse the transaction. It is also not known how much will be covered by the city’s insurance policies. The city government has contacted Governor Chris Sununu’s office and representatives in the state Congress for assistance.
“These criminals were very sophisticated and took advantage of the transparent nature of the public sector’s work to identify the most valuable transactions and focus their actions on the hijacking of those transfers,” the joint statement by Ward and MacStay continued.
The city also received a pledge of assistance from US Senator Maggie Hassan. Hassan, a former governor of New Hampshire, currently chairs the Monitoring Committee on Emerging Threats and Speeches and has called the Peterborough situation a “devastating attack”.
“We know that cybercriminals are smart, savvy, and able to identify and attack our weak spots – and we need to make sure our state and local governments are ready,” Hassan said.