Someone stole more than $146,000 from a rural Colorado county’s bank accounts through a computer virus, officials said Friday.
The theft occurred this month when someone sent a bogus email to Huerfano County purporting to be from a shipping company, County Administrator John Galusha said. A county official clicked on a link in the email, inadvertently triggering a virus that initiated the transfer to bank accounts in Europe.
Another attempt to transfer $80,000 from Huerfano County accounts in June was foiled when a broker involved became suspicious, Galusha said.
That attack used an email purporting to be from a national credit rating company. The money was to be sent to a bank in Turkey, he said.
Huerfano County prosecutors said that federal officials are investigating and that no one had been arrested. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Denver said prosecutors are aware of the theft but he declined to comment further.
Galusha said insurance companies have promised to reimburse the county’s loss.
After the first attack, the county changed its procedures to require two people to approve a transfer, but hackers were able to circumvent the security measure.
Since then, the county has shut down all the computers it used in financial transactions except for one that it verified as being free of any viruses, Galusha said.
Huerfano County, about 150 miles south of Denver, has about 6,700 residents. Walsenburg is the county seat.
Banks are required to carry insurance that protects consumers from such losses, said Jenifer Waller, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Bankers Association.
She said the state association is unaware of similar attacks against local government computers in Colorado.
Waller said banks combat these types of schemes by educating their customers, installing fraud detection software and working with industry coalitions, including local governments.
“Unfortunately, criminals are using more sophisticated schemes to defraud individuals and losses sometimes do happen at the bank level. Banks make their customers whole. We have insurance, beyond the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, to protect our customers and ourselves,” she said.
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