Online scammers steal nearly $60,000 from Town of Snowmass Village | AspenTimes.com

Online scammers steal nearly $60,000 from Town of Snowmass Village

Con artists online bilked the Snowmass government of nearly $60,000 last month via a spear-phishing scam, the town announced Aug. 18.

The town's total financial loss, however, is $5,000 — the cost of its deductible with its insurance company, which will compensate the difference.

Snowmass Town Manager Clint Kinney said authorities have told him "not to be confident that we will get the money back."

The Snowmass Police Department is investigating the crime; specifically, a bank in the south where the funds were wired.

Scammers in mid-July imitated a town email account and requested a wire transfer of $57,396 related to "construction materials," Kinney said.

Due to the "sophisticated nature" of the scam, the town of Snowmass Village approved the request and the transaction on July 18, according to a statement.

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Upon learning of the scam, the town notified its bank fraud department, insurance company, the FBI and police.

Kinney said the town waited a month to announce the scam in an effort to not interfere with the investigation or enable "opportunities for (scammers) recovery (of funds)."

"We wanted to be transparent and get the information out there and make sure it's not comprising the investigation," Kinney said. "It was a weird balance."

In its statement, the town warns businesses and individuals to be careful sharing any financial information via email, adding that spear-phishing email scams are on the rise and "can be extremely deceptive as they are sent from what appears to be trusted sources or email accounts."

Consequently, the town of Snowmass Village has implemented "stricter" procedures and controls to prevent such a scam from occurring again in the future, Kinney said.

Spear-phishing ploys have duped other municipalities, according to Kinney, including "at least one other in the state" that is under investigation.

erobbie@aspentimes.com

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