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Platte Co. email 'spoof' leads to $48K mistake

Posted: 9:16 PM, Jun 01, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-02 10:13:41-04

The FBI is investigating an email "spoof" scam that led to more than $48,000 being wired from the Platte County government to a cyber criminal.

The email was received by Platte County Treasurer Rob Willard last Friday and appeared to be from Platte County Presiding Commissioner Ron Schieber about consulting fees that were owed.

"In that email, he said that we needed to get a wire transfer done as quickly as possible," explained Willard. "On the surface of the email, when you look at it, it came from his county email."

Willard says due to the urgency of the email and with it being a Friday before a holiday weekend, he bypassed county procedures to make sure the transfer went through.

Later in the afternoon, Willard called the bank to arrange the transfer.

After contacting Schieber, who was on vacation, it became apparent that the email was a scam.

"First thing I said to him was, 'Ron, you don't have anything to worry about it. I worked on the wire. I got it through to you,'" said Willard. "Then he said, 'Rob, I haven't sent you any emails all week.'"

Moments after the call, Willard contacted bank officials and the authorities to report the scam.

Text messages between Schieber and Willard show the confusion over the email.

In total, Schieber said $48,220 was transferred to the cyber criminal.

"To get duped out of $48,000 in taxpayer dollars, that's big," he explained.

Schieber said county leaders have been working with insurance and bank agents to try and recoup the money, but he is not hopeful it will come back.

"My heart sunk [after hearing about the scam]. You get a big knot in your stomach when something like this happens," Schieber said. "You feel violated when you're spoofed."

A similar spoof email scam was reported the week before in Barton County, Kansas. The Barton County Treasurer's Office fell for the scam, which also led to a loss of more than $48,000.

Schieber said county employee information was not compromised in the scam.

Moving forward, Willard explained that he will work with the county to make sure a similar scam doesn't happen again. He said the mistake he made last week is something he will never forget.

"In the end, I didn't do everything that I was supposed to do to protect the taxpayers from that attack," Willard explained. "That is something that I am going to live with for the rest of my life."

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Tom Dempsey can be reached at  Tom.Dempsey@KSHB.com.

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