Bernalillo County sends more than $447K to fraudulent bank account

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Bernalillo County has new security measures in place to make sure taxpayer dollars stay within the county. This comes after it sent more than $447,000 to a fraudulent bank account in Texas late last year.

“We’re on very high alert and we’ve learned from it. Unfortunately, we had to go be the victim of something like this. But, we have learned from it and we’re doing all sorts of things and high alert security measures,” Dinah Esquivel, Director of the county’s Procurement and Business Services department said.

The county said someone created a false email imitating an IT vendor the county works with. Then using a form on the county website and a false voided check, the scammers requested a new payment method.

A county staff person didn’t follow policy and call the vendor to confirm the request.

“Unfortunately one of our staff…they didn’t pick up the phone and call the vendor. And that’s what happened,” Esquivel said.

One resident we talked to isn’t shocked or happy about the incident.

“This day, people can, they can scam if they want your money. But the city, the county, I don’t see how this could’ve happened. It’s bad news. And then we lose out,” said Bernalillo County resident Luis Garcia.

Similar scams took $400,000 from the city of Albuquerque a couple of years ago. Alamogordo and the Socorro School District also fell victim to similar incidents.

“We did hear about the city of Albuquerque getting scammed. We also met with Wells Fargo and they gave us some recommendations as well as to how to prevent this sort of occurrence from happening,” Esquivel said.

It wasn’t enough. Since getting tricked, the county is beefing up security measures, including taking the used form off the website.

“We’ve put some other measures in place to make sure that goes through that process. It goes through four internal reviews instead of two,” Dinah explained.

Employees are also getting trained on how to spot a fraudulent email and the county is working with Wells Fargo to set third-party verification in place. Esquivel said that added security measures should be set to-go within the next month.

“Be aware. These people out there are very advanced, very technical, and they can do it. You can be a victim too and we don’t want that to happen,” Esquivel said.

Since the extra security measures were put in place, the county was able to stop two additional fraud attempts. It also filed an insurance claim to get the money back.

The FBI is investigating the incident. As of right now, the county employee who didn’t follow policy is not facing any disciplinary action.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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