A local non-profit society charged with providing assistance to vulnerable individuals was robbed of more than $200,000 in December through an online scam, according to Becky Vermette, executive directory of Princeton and District Community Services Society.
“My reaction was shock and disbelief, followed by anger,” said Vermette.
The money was siphoned from the society’s bank account through numerous transactions over the course of a week.
RCMP Sergeant Rob Hughes confirmed the PDCSS filed a report at that time, and the investigation into the crime is ongoing, although he could not provide details.
According to Vermette the incident did not affect the society’s operations. All funds were eventually recovered or replaced.
“This was a sophisticated phishing scam. An email was sent to a staff member that looked to be from a trusted sender that we receive regular correspondence from.
“Once the email was opened, they were able to access our computer systems, and in turn, our online banking,” said Vermette.
“Thankfully the financial institution and our ITs were able to act quickly. Funds were returned within weeks and our ITs were able to quickly wipe computers and install more protections. There was no impact to operations.”
PDCSS is publicly funded, with an approximate $3.5 million annual operating budget.
The organization provides services including transportation, housing, home support, assisted living, meals on wheels and programs for adults with developmental disabilities.
Society staff has undergone cyber security training following the theft.
Vermette said the experience ought to be a lesson for everyone.
“This was not a poorly written email asking us to send money overseas, but rather correspondence that was thought to be sent from a trusted and recognized sender…People should be vigilant when opening emails. Check the senders address, and then check it again. If it looks suspect, it probably is.”
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