Hacker phishing schemes finds easy, lucrative targets in Collier County

Online criminals stole $184,000 from Collier County and this is the second time this summer it has been targeted.

Taxpayers in Collier County made a point clear that they expect local government to protect their money.

Jessica Nelson said it is understandable that everyday people could be scammed in this way.

“But for the government, for the county to be giving away money without knowing who’s asking for it,” Nelson said, “they should have more protocols.”

Janice Jackson agrees.

“That’s expected,” Jackson said. “That should be a first priority, really.”

We just discovered that last December, a foreign cyber attacker stole $184,000 in taxpayer money in an email phishing scam to the Clerk of Courts.

The hacker pretended to be someone with quality enterprises. A local contracting company the county has worked with for years was requesting a change of bank account. The county wired taxpayer money to that fake account.

“They also forged one of our officer’s signatures and everything in the form,” said Allison Murrell, corporate officer quality enterprises. “The form even to us even looked legit.”

The City of Naples lost $700,000 in a similar scam this summer. NCH Healthcare System employees also fell victim to a phishing scheme.

Collier County leaders said they are putting safeguards in place to protect this from happening again. As for the Naples scam, the city is still working with its insurance to get the missing taxpayer money returned.

Joe Morris, who works with government employees to help catch these scams, said education is the only way to stop them.

“They have a lot of visibility and they need to be accountable,” Morris said.

Writer:Michael Mora
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