SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — An online scam that targeted Puerto Rican agencies attempted to steal more than $4 million, police said Thursday, deepening concerns about the management of local government finances during an economic crisis.
Authorities have frozen at least $2.9 million, said an official who was not authorized to comment on the case and requested anonymity. The government has not said how much money was seized by the hacker.
The scam began when someone hacked into the computer of a finance worker at the island’s Employee Retirement System in December, said Jose Ayala, director of the fraud unit within the bank robbery division. The hacker then posed as the female employee and sent emails to various government agencies alleging a change in bank accounts, he said.
He said two agencies fell victim to the scam: Puerto Rico’s Industrial Development Company sent $63,000 in December and more than $2.6 million in January while the island’s Tourism Company sent $1.5 million in January to fraudulent accounts on the U.S. mainland.
Puerto Rico government officials realized what had happened when the finance worker at the Employee Retirement System called the agencies and said she had not received any payments and officials responded they had already sent them.
El Nuevo Dia, a Puerto Rico daily newspaper, had reported the $1.5 million payment that the tourism company had made. The other payment became public late Wednesday through a police report.
Ayala said the FBI is investigating.
On Thursday, legislators demanded an investigation as government officials declined to provide further information, citing an ongoing investigation.
Print Headline: Online scammer hits Puerto Rico