City of Burlington falls for $503K phishing scam

Halton police are investigating after the city of Burlington fell prey to a phishing scam that ended up costing half a million dollars.

City officials say a staff member made a single transaction to a “falsified bank account” after receiving an email requesting to change banking information for someone the city was doing business with.

The staffer transferred $503,000 to the phoney account on May 16.

The city says they learned of the fraud a week later and reported it to the bank and Halton police.

“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,” said Mayor Marianne Meed Ward in a news release. “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.”

It has since added more internal controls to prevent a similar incident from happening.

City officials say its IT system was not compromised and no personal information was stolen or shared.

The city has also launched a review of its current process.

“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,” said Tim Commisso, Interim City Manager. “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.”