The City of Burlington was taken in by a phishing scam.
On May 23 the municipality discovered it was a victim of fraud. A single transaction was made to a falsified bank account as a result of a complex phishing email to city staff asking to change banking information for an established city vendor. An electronic transfer of roughly $503,000 was made to the vendor on May 16.
The fraud has been reported to police and additional internal controls have been implemented. The city says no personal information was stolen or shared.
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward said it’s important to be vigilant for online scams.
“This was a case of online fraud with falsified documents at a level of sophistication not typically seen and we are taking the necessary steps to prevent it from happening in the future. This stresses just how important it is that we are all vigilant and recognize the signs of online fraud, phishing and other scams, and report them to the proper authorities — so that no one becomes a victim of this type of criminal activity,” said Meed Ward.
Criminal investigations are currently underway. The city is undergoing a full review of its current processes.
Businesses and government are regularly targeted with online scams. In 2018, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received 2,263 reports of business fraud incidents of various kinds, with a total reported loss of $17,501,617.
Tim Commisso, Burlington’s interim city manager, said they are working with police on the matter.
“We are taking this matter very seriously. City staff took immediate action, including notifying members of council and our audit committee when the incident was first discovered. We are working closely with the police on their ongoing criminal investigation and we have also initiated an independent external investigation of the incident, which will be part of our reporting back to council and the audit committee,” said Commisso.
The city has indicated it will not provide further comment on the incident so as not to interfere with the investigation.
Roland Cilliers is a general assignment reporter for InsideHalton.com and its sister papers. Reach him via email: [email protected]