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Cyber-thief scams the City of Ellensburg out of $185,897

ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- The City of Ellensburg announced Monday that it was defrauded out of $185,597. 

In a news release, the City said it received an email last week from someone claiming to be an accountant at one of the City's existing vendors.

In the past, the vendor has only accepted physical checks from the City. The email requested the vendor's next payment to be made by electronic transfer to an account at a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Texas.

"The request had what appeared to be proper, complete and authentic documentation. We processed the invoice and made payment to what was thought to be the vendor's bank account, but instead belonged to a fraudulent account," the City said. 

The fraudulent accountant later contacted the City and said the transfer had been rejected by their bank. He said he would send new account information, triggering additional procedural steps by the City.

The City subsequently learned that the transfer instructions were fraudulent and the funds did not go to the vendor as intended. The City is working with law enforcement and its insurance provider to see if the funds can be recovered. It will also be updating policies and procedures to reduce the risk of future cyber threats. 

The news release says that the community and local businesses should be aware of ongoing cyber-criminal activity. 

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