FBI officials said cybercrimes have become more common than forgery and counterfeiting crimes — and many are crossing international lines.
“Many of the internet frauds do cross international lines,” said Todd Lindgren, public affairs specialist with the FBI in Cincinnati.
Lindgren spoke to The Gazette on Monday about cybercrimes like the ones recently committed against Delaware County’s Liberty Township and Big Walnut School District. State Auditor Dave Yost called a press conference last week to talk about the growing problem.
The FBI has established the website ic3.gov to report cybercrimes and to offer tips on how to avoid being scammed.
The FBI will investigate the crime if it is “a high dollar amount,” Lindgren said.
In Liberty Township, a counterfeit check for $134,000 made out to a used-car dealer in England was discovered when the township’s bank statement was reconciled. Liberty Township’s lost funds were restored.
The ic3.gov site’s statistics for 2015 state that 16,594 phishing scams, 2,453 ransomware crimes and 7,837 business email compromises had been reported to the FBI.
According to Lindgren, the FBI has seen an increase in criminals gaining access to email systems and posing as supervisors, trying to get employees to transfer funds to them. That is the scam used in the Big Walnut case.
Holding a computer and data hostage, known as ransomware, is quickly becoming one of the cybercriminals go-to tools. Once a system is locked up, the cybercriminal will demand a large sum of money to release the system. “We are seeing more ransomware used by criminals,” Lindgren said.
The Big Walnut Local Schools was the victim of a cybercrime involving the loss of $38,520 of funds in email fraud.
A prepared statement from the district indicated that “the Big Walnut Local District recently became the victim of a ‘spear-fishing’ fraud incident. … This is a sophisticated method that utilizes fraudulent email to target individuals. Because the incident is still under investigation, we have been unable to discuss specific details. … There have been no data breaches to our system.”
The school district contacted Yost’s office once the fraud was discovered.
An employee in the Big Walnut School District treasurer’s office transferred $38,520 on a request she thought came from her boss, according to Yost.
According to Yost, the email she received was a realistic counterfeit of the district’s email. The employee did take steps to verify the email before transferring the money.
The employee and an individual who appeared to be her boss exchanged several emails to answer questions before the transfer of $38,520 was made.
Terri Eyerman, treasurer for Big Walnut, told The Gazette, “The majority of the money was recovered through the bank and other sources.”
According to Yost, his office is seeing an increase in cyber-attacks in the state. He urged all local government entities to take precautions against possible attacks.
“A lot of these governments are very small,” Yost said. “They should be making sure their anti-virus is up to date. Do nightly backups of data.”
The attacks known by Yost’s office have occurred in Delaware, Madison, Morrow, Clinton and Warren counties, he said.
Big Walnut and Liberty Township’s accounts are with the Delaware County Bank.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin