Puerto Rico has revealed its government agencies have fallen victim to an online phishing scam that stole millions of dollars.
Reports have claimed that fraudsters attempted to steal over $4 million by hacking into a female employee’s account. Though the authorities have not revealed how much money was actually stolen, over $4.73 million has already been transferred to different accounts by various government agencies since December.
The Puerto Rico government says it is trying to recover the money, with $2.9 million frozen already.
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Puerto Rico Scam
The crime appears to have originated after hackers gained access to the email account of a finance worker at the country's Employee Retirement System. Then, posing as a this employee, the hackers sent emails to various agencies asking them for a change in the bank accounts.
The Industrial Development Company of Puerto Rico sent $63,000 in December and $2.6 million in January, with the Tourism Company also sending $1.5 million in January to accounts located in the US mainland, authorities said.
The fraud was only highlighted when the finance team at the Employee Retirement System informed the officials that they had not received any money. While the local legislators are demanding a probe, the FBI has been involved to understand how the computer of the worker at Employee Retirement System was hacked in the first place.
Puerto Rico is currently enduring a 13-year long recession and is experiencing a severe financial crisis.
“This is a very serious situation, extremely serious,” Manuel Laboy, executive director of the government-owned Industrial Development Company, told the Associated Press. “We want it to be investigated until the last consequences.”
According to FBI, over 23,000 phishing scams targeting business emails were reported in the United States last year, where hackers stole over $1.7 billion from different victims. The special teams at FBI have been able to recover $300 million that was stolen by getting the account details changed.
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