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Treasurer of Ottawa City fall prey to a Phishing Scam


The treasurer of Ottawa City fall prey to an increasingly widespread cyber attack form last year (i.e. in 2018), thus costing Ottawa City roughly US$ 98,000 that was sent to the U.S. fraudster.


Ken Hughes, Auditor General of Ottawa City, confirmed that as per his investigation he found that Marian Simulik, the city treasurer, has been scammed into sending around US$ 98,000 from the treasury of Ottawa to a fake account in July last year.


On July 6, 2018, Simulik received the phishing email that appears to be from Steve Kanellakos, the city manager, and asked the city treasurer Simulik to wire money to a particular given account so as to complete one acquisition on behalf of Ottawa city. Simulik unknowingly sent some emails to the fraudster; and eventually signed off the transfer, with city's treasury branch issuing funds later on July 6, 2018.


Five days later on July 11, 2018, a new phishing email again appears to be from Kanellakos instructing the city treasurer to send around US$ 150,000 for another acquisition. However, on this occasion Simulik was attending a meeting of city council and was sitting next to the city manager himself. So she asked Kanellakos regarding this email, and the city manager replied that he do not have any knowledge about such request. At this point, both of them realized that Ottawa city become victim to fraud.


Soon after, Simulik reported this incident to city's IT branch. The IT branch then involved Ottawa city's auditor general, whereas the staff called Ottawa Police Service. As per auditor general Hughes, Ottawa police at that time said as the wire transfer has been completed, so there was nothing the Ottawa police can do.


Staff of Ottawa City was informed after this incident that one account involved in this scam was getting monitored by United States Secret Service. Moreover, a person related to this matter was arrested, and now is awaiting trial. So, still there are hopes that Ottawa City may get some money back due to involvement of U.S. authorities'.


Hughes said that "it was pure luck (the Secret Service) were monitoring this particular account". After his investigation, auditor general Hughes concluded that there was no sign of wrongdoing by Similuk and/or by the other city staffs'.


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