Texas County Scrambles to Recover $888K Illegitimate Payment

Harris County of Texas Falls for Phishing Scam

Hackers are ruthless.  I mean ruthless.  Just weeks after Hurricane Harvey, a hacker sent an email to the Harris County auditor’s office claiming to be a contractor who was due for payment.  The email claimed they were working on restoring damaged parking lots, cleaning up debris, and building a road for the county.  All of this “work” came with an $888,000 price tag.

The county authorized the payment.  However, within 24 hours they were scrambling to reverse the payment, as they had realized they had been scammed.  They were able to successfully recover the full payment.  Although, the county continues to work with officials to determine where the scam came from.

Unfortunately, this is not the first, nor will it be the last time a hacker exploits the devastation businesses and people are facing.

To avoid falling victim of scams such as these, it is important individuals check to be sure the email requests are coming from a legitimate source.  The email received by the Harris County auditor’s office was made to look like it came from a legitimate contractor they were using.  However, instead of contacting the contractor by phone, or using an email address on file they were certain was them, they emailed the fake email back.  This is a huge mistake — because the email will go right back to the scammer.  Often, scammers will make these emails look like legitimate invoices from businesses the individuals are familiar with.  This of course increases the probability of them receiving the payment.  Fortunately, Harris County was able to stop the payment.  Others aren’t always so lucky.


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