City of Burlington falls for $503,000 phishing scheme

Investigations are underway, after the city of Burlington says it was the victim of a $503,000 phishing scheme.

Governments 'are just as prone to scams as are individuals,' city says

The city of Burlington said it took "immediate" steps to notify authorities and make sure this doesn't happen again. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The city of Burlington says it has fallen victim to a $503,000 phishing scheme.

City staff received a "complex phishing email," requesting to change banking information for an "established city vendor," the city said in a press release.

About $503,000 was transferred to a falsified bank account for the vendor on May 16, the city said.

After realizing the mistake on May 23, the city says it immediately notified their bank and Halton Regional Police. They also put in "additional internal controls" to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"These types of targeted attacks are all too common and can take many forms," the city said in a press release.

"Governments and businesses are just as prone to scams as are individuals."

A criminal investigation is underway, the city says, and it has started an independent external investigation that will report back to council and the audit committee.

"We are taking this matter very seriously," said interim city manager Tim Commisso in a statement.

The falsified documents had a "level of sophistication not typically seen," said Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward in a press release.

The city says its IT  system was not compromised and no personal information was stolen or shared.

"A full review of our current processes will determine the need for other changes," the city said.

The mayor said this highlights how important it is to be vigilant and recognize the signs of online scams "and report them to the proper authorities."