$710,000 recovered by Nassau police from cyberattack against comptroller’s office

$710,000 recovered by Nassau police from cyberattack against comptroller’s office
Family and community members mourned the death of 19-year-old Matthew Felix, who was fatally shot by a police officer or officers last month. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Nassau County recovered $710,000 in payments from the comptroller’s office to scammers that were impersonating a county vendor, according to county officials.

Controls that were implemented at the county’s bank identified fraudulent activity taking place, according to a new release from County Comptroller Jack Schnirman.

An investigation was then coordinated between the Nassau County Police Department, the district attorney’s office, the treasurer’s office and the comptroller’s office.

“In the digital age, cyber-attacks target municipalities throughout the country, costing taxpayers and residents millions of dollars,” Schnirman said. “This malicious attempted cyber-crime was thwarted, and taxpayers were protected due to the efforts of this coordinated investigation.”

At a news conference on Friday, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder everyone has to be mindful of the growing number of cyberattacks across the country.

“Many times we talk about the scams on our elderly, how they can get fooled, but government can become a victim too,” Ryder said. “If it weren’t for the coordinated effort and initial contact from the comptroller’s office, the money may not have been recovered because it moves quickly.”

According to Ryder, officials from the comptroller’s office contacted the police on Oct. 25 and reported the fraudulent activity.

Ryder said that the scammers filled out the necessary paperwork and documentation to make the comptroller’s office believe they were a credible county vendor.  He also said that the comptroller’s office did the necessary due diligence in making sure that the vendor was credible.

“They filled out all the necessary paperwork that is built into the system to make sure that we can deconflict and make sure there is no scam being done,” he said.  “They then asked for the payments to be put into their new account, that was done … It looked like an original account.”

The money was then redirected to an elderly Seattle woman’s account, who was also targeted by the scammers, according to Ryder.  Afterward, the money was wired to several other accounts, and investigators were able to freeze the accounts and seize the payments.

Ryder said that no arrests have been made, and he and other officials are unsure whether this was a domestic or foreign cyberattack.

“The Comptroller’s Office had previously enhanced controls and as a result of this attempted cyber-attack, additional controls have been put in place,” Schnirman said.

County Legislator Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), the Legislature’s presiding officer, said in a statement: “The Legislature received no notice of this until the press conference. The Comptroller is charged with keeping an eye on county finances. That this happened to our ‘fiscal watchdog’ is deeply concerning and we have many questions that must be answered.”

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