Winnebago County Treasurer’s Office scammed out of $76k

What looked like a routine email from a colleague turned into the unexpected.
Hacker types on keyboard
Hacker types on keyboard(CBS Newspath)
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 10:25 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - When Winnebago County Treasurer Susan Goral opened an email from a colleague, asking for more than $100 thousand dollars to cover expenses that were due for the county, she sent it over without thinking much of it.

“They made it look so legit it’s kind of scary,” said Goral. “She even included the request form.”

But then, a bad feeling took over Goral, and she decided to call and see if the finance department if the wires were transferred to them.

“They said no,” said Goral. “And that’s when I called the bank.”

She discovered that email was from an overseas fraudsters, posing as her colleague. She worked with the bank to recover forty-seven thousand dollars, but the remaining $76,000 was a loss for the county.

“There’s just no excuse for it,” said Goral. “I can’t even come up with an excuse, now that I know what it is.”

Goral isn’t the only victim of email fraud. The FBI says she is just one of more than 19,000 people who’ve fallen into this trap, just this year alone.

“You should always be thinking, ‘Hey, somebody might be out there trying to scam me,’” said Better Business Bureau Director Dennis Horton. “Cause frankly, they are.”

Consumer watchdogs say you should always double check email addresses match the one listed on an official organizations website.

“Scammers are banking on the fact that for the most part, we are very trusting,” said Horton.

A report from the FBI says Winnebago County contributes to nearly $2.4 billion lost to email scams in 2021.

“I hope the FBI can get our money back; and just feel bad that this happened to the county,” said Goral. “And it wont happen again.”

Goral says Winnebago County is working with the FBI to uncover who these scammers are, and if it’s possible to recover the rest of the money.

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