Zuni, Deming Schools Almost Took the BaitBY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI San Miguel County has lost $38,000 in a wire transfer scam that's been targeting government agencies, State Auditor Tim Keller said Tuesday while warning government agencies and their employees to not fall for the fraud. The scammers have targeted at least nine government agencies in the state, and they convinced government employees from three agencies to initiate wire transfers totaling $100,000, Keller said. But two school districts—Zuni Public Schools and Deming Public Schools—were able to stop the transfers, which the scammers requested by email. “Most folks are familiar with various types of personal and email financial scams, and unfortunately the tactic is spreading to prey on government employees who may feel intimidated by an email that appears to be from their boss,” Keller said. “We are reminding folks to stick to normal procedures regardless of the situation. One key to safeguarding public funds is to maintain a 'tone at the top' that helps staff feel comfortable asking questions about unusual orders from up the chain.” The unknown scammers target lower level employees who are in finance departments and make it appear that the transfer request came from their boss, Keller spokeswoman Justine Freeman said. However, the emails often urge the employees to bypass internal financial controls, and they often contain poor, or non-standard English. “The scammers seem to know when the high-level people are out of town, and then they send to emails to the financial staff that tell them to send money and do the wire transfer,” Freeman said. “And the financial officials have not held to their official policies and procedures.” The scam apparently began in May, and so far has targeted government employees in Santa Fe, Torrance, Curry, Taos, Grant and San Miguel counties, Freeman said. The fraudsters have also targeted the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department and the New Mexico Association of Counties. Freeman said officials don't know who the scammers are and where they're from. She added that she believed law enforcement officials from San Miguel County were investigating the scam.
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