City Hall Scam Alert

Bogus emails, phone call raise concerns

NANTICOKE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) -- You probably heard the expression "You can't fight city hall". But cyber criminals can apparently use city hall to try and scam unsuspecting residents. That's the problem one local community is dealing with.

Municipalities routinely conduct business using email. But leaders in one local community have a  warning for people who live there: the next email you get from them might be part of a money scam. 

Nanticoke Finance and Accounting Director Jennifer Polito said "Our resident came in and said 'You and I have a problem.'" It's anything but business as usual at Nanticoke City Hall. A man who lives in the city confronted Ms. Polito this month about some email he received. "He goes, 'I'm getting really weird emails from you and he had two of them on two separate days.'"

The problem is Ms. Polito never sent the emails even though one of them sure looked like she did. "It actually said jpolito@nanticokecity.com where the other one said Jennifer or jpolito at some German address," she said.

That's right. German. Both emails are actually written in German and contain a link. That's called "phishing" when someone hijacks your identity on the internet. So far, some three dozen other people including city staff received the emails bearing Ms. Polito's name. "My biggest concern is that they see my name. They're going to trust it. They're going to open a link and it may crash their computers."

And it's not just bogus email raising red flags at city hall. "A fellow came in and he said I had a call from your phone," said Nanticoke Code Officer Jack Minsavage. The claim made this month to him was that someone was soliciting something using his phone number. "I said well that's not possible. And he said 'Well, here's your number and it came up on my phone' and he showed me the phone and it was exactly my... it was the city phone and it was exactly my city phone number."

Mr. Minsavage became a victim of what's called "spoofing" when a caller changes the Caller ID to any number than the one actually making the call. While they don't know who's behind any of this, city hall workers have their guard up. "Who knows the way people can scam today," said Mr. Minsavage who added that the bogus phone call is the only one he's aware of made to appear it was from him. Meanwhile, Nanticoke City Hall's IT staff reassures the city that its server has not been compromised in any way.

The city of Nanticoke cautions residents if they are not expecting an email from a city hall employee then do not open the email. Instead, call the city hall employee to verify its authenticity. And a general reminder - don't click any link in an email if you don't know the sender.


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