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The Essex Region Conservation Authority was the victim of online fraud with more than $292,00 having been transferred into falsified bank accounts.

ERCA says it discovered the situation on Thursday, Aug. 27. Two transactions had been made back in July to two falsified bank accounts as a result of a complex phishing email to ERCA staff where the fraudster posed as an internal staff member.

“These types of targeted attacks are all too common and can take many forms. Governments and businesses are just as vulnerable to scams as are individuals,” said chair of the Board of Directors, Kieran McKenzie said in a news release. “Rest assured we are working with all appropriate authorities to fully investigate this matter.”

ERCA says the first transaction was in the form of an electronic transfer of funds made tom the fraudster in the amount of $61,876 and was processed on July 14. The second, also in the form of an electronic transfer was made in the amount of approximately $230,865 on July 27.

“ERCA can confirm that none of the funds affected by this fraudulent activity were from the Essex Region Conservation Foundation and as such no funds from donors have been impacted,” a news release from the organization states.

According to the release, in 2019 alone, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received 46,465 reports of fraud from consumers and business last year, affecting businesses in various sectors.

Upon discovering the fraudulent payments, ERCA says it took immediate steps by reporting the incident to its financial institution, notifying the police, and its insurer. Additional internal controls were also put in place to prevent any future occurrences.

Criminal investigations are underway.

ERCA says its IT systems were not further compromised during the incident. There will be a full review of the organization’s current processed to determine if there is a need for other changes.