Brunswick County loses $4 million in alleged phishing scam
Brunswick County lost more than $4 million to a phishing scam in late 2020, and it has yet to completely recover.
According to court filings, between Oct. 16, 2020, and Nov 25, 2020, phishing scammers collected $4,026,180.07 from the county by mimicking the email address of a county contractor, TA Loving Company, but with extra hyphens in the domain name.
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On Sept. 23, 2020, the scammers requested the county update TA Loving’s bank account information, which the county did. Over the next two months, four payments the county made to TA Loving for contractor work were instead rerouted to a PNC bank account belonging to the scammers.
Each of the four payments was larger than the next, ranging from $155,555.25 on Oct. 16, 2020, to $1,958,086.81 on Nov. 25, 2020.
The scam was discovered Nov. 25, 2020, when TA Loving reached out to the county about the past due invoices and confirmed the September account information change was fraudulent, according to the filing.
The scheme was detailed in a forfeiture in rem complaint filed by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Fesak in the Eastern District Court of North Carolina.
“Once the county’s payment hit the fraudster(s)’ account, the fraudster(s) usually rapidly transferred the money to numerous other accounts owned by numerous other entities, many of which appear to be illegitimate shell companies,” the filing states.
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