Peterborough, N.H. Loses $2.3 Million To Cyber Criminals

Bizar Male

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. 

The town of Peterborough announced it was scammed out of $2.3 million dollars by cyber-thieves. A press release issued by select board chair Tyler Ward and town administrator Nicole MacStay said it’s not clear whether insurance will cover any of the losses and it’s impossible to reverse the transactions.

Peterborough’s town budget for this fiscal year is a little over $15.8 million.

“It’s very shocking to us to be quite honest,” MacStay said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s just been very difficult to work through all this, and try to do the best we can to recover these funds…to mitigate the burden on our residents and taxpayers.”

Town officials say the theft came in two parts. First, thieves posed as local school district staff, using forged documents and email accounts to access a million dollar transfer from the town to the district.

The town says it then notified the U.S. Secret Service and a cyber security consulting firm through it’s liability coverage.

Several weeks later, thieves used the same approach to steal a payment intended for contractors working on the Main Street Bridge project.

“Investigations into these forged email exchanges show that they originated overseas,” the press release said.

“These criminals were very sophisticated and took advantage of the transparent nature of public sector work to identify the most valuable transactions and focus their actions on diverting those transfers.”

“We do have cash to cover our transactions so we won’t be holding payments at this time, but we’re really waiting for insurance to come back and tell us whether these losses will be covered,” MacStay said.

Town officials have contacted the governor’s office and New Hampshire’s legislative delegation. Peterborough has canceled all automated clearing house transfers, and MacStay said the town is reviewing all of the town’s policies and procedures related to electronic transfers.

“We’re doing our best to make sure that we’ve left no rock unturned,” she said, “that we’ve looked for every hole and every vulnerability and try to patch it up as best as we can.”

The Finance Department staff who were directly targeted are not believed to be criminally involved in the transfers, but are on leave until the Secret Service’s investigation is completed.

Updated: August 23, 2021 at 5:47 PM EDT

This story was updated to include quotes from an interview with Peterborough’s town administrator.

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