Email scammers con Nunavut corporation out of $300K

The Nunavut Resources Corp. is out around $300,000 after months of falling victim to an email scam.

Scammers impersonated the corporation’s COO over 3.5 months

Nunavut Resources Corp. chief operations officer Scott Northey says the corporation has changed bookkeepers and uses a more secure banking platform since it was scammed earlier this year. (CBC)

The Nunavut Resources Corp. is out around $300,000 after months of falling victim to an email scam.

It started last December, according to the corporation's chief operating officer Scott Northey.

"Somebody was sending emails roughly under my name to our bookkeeper and requesting payment to people who had nothing to do with [us]," he explained.

Northey said his personal email account, which he would use for work, has no record of any of these emails. It's unclear whether his email was hacked, or if the scammer mirrored his personal email address.

The Nunavut Resources Corp. is owned by the Kitikmeot Inuit Association. It works to "facilitate the development and growth of Nunavut's non-renewable resources sector," according to its website.

The corporation is based in Cambridge Bay. Northey is based in Toronto, while the corporation's — now former — bookkeeper was in Yellowknife.

The Nunavut Resources Corp. is based in Cambridge Bay. (Chris Corday/CBC)

'I received a crazy email'

Northey first noticed something was wrong in April.

"I received a crazy email from what looked to be me, to me, saying that our payment was late and it needed to be dealt with immediately," he said.

"I erased it immediately … for fear that there was some kind of trap in the email."

Northey said he contacted the bookkeeper about this right away and asked for a full report from the corporation's bank account; something he never received.

He says he suspects the hackers diverted the bookkeeper's emails so he couldn't see what was going on.

It would be another month before someone got suspicious.

"I got a call from the bookkeeper saying, 'We just got an email from you requesting that all your emails be erased because there's a virus in them, and we're just calling to confirm that,'" Northey said. "I said, 'Nope, that's not me.'"

Names possibly from the Congo

The scammer — or scammers — conned the corporation out of hundreds of thousands of dollars with fake invoices, Northey says.

Among the fake payees were the non-existent Canadian Automotive Textile Recycling Corp., and several people with last names Northey believes are from the Congo.

"With hindsight, people should have picked up on it a lot quicker," he admitted.

Since the theft, Northey says the corporation has changed bookkeepers, and is now part of a "more secure" platform at its bank.

The Nunavut Resources Corp. has recovered around $30,000 so far, but Northey isn't optimistic they'll see more returned.

"It's going to cost money to go after the money," he said.

For now, he says, the corporation is getting by, though they are working to receive government assistance.

"Our annual budget is roughly $500,000 a year, and clearly [this loss is] going to have an impact," he said.

Northey says he contacted RCMP about the scam. CBC News reached out to Nunavut RCMP Monday morning, but did not receive a response.