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Peterborough officials get back half a million after cyber scam

Peterborough Town Administrator Nicole MacStay announced Friday that the town recovered $594,000 stolen by cyber criminals.

“It is great relief that I can announce that the U.S. Secret Service, working with People’s United Bank and HSBC Bank, were able to recover over $594,000 in funds that had been stolen from the taxpayers of Peterborough through the email-based fraud announced on August 24th,” MacStay said in a statement on social media.

Cyber criminals stole $2.3 million from the town in July and August, according to MacStay. $1.2 million of that was earmarked for the Contoocook Valley Regional School District.

MacStay said the town became aware in July that the $1.2 million monthly transfer meant for the ConVal School District didn’t go through. The initial investigation uncovered an email scam and the town put a stop order on the payment, according to the statement, but the money was already gone at that point.

The town’s IT Department staff contacted the U.S. Secret Service and the cyber security consulting firm ATOM Group through NH Primex, the Town’s property and liability coverage provider.

According to the statement, the U.S. Secret Service Cyber Fraud Task Force found that the money stolen was transferred into crypto currency almost immediately. The investigation found that the cyber crooks forged ConVal identities to pull off the scam.

As the investigation was underway, on Aug. 18, Finance Department staff learned that two bank transfers meant to go to Beck and Bellucci, the general contractor working on the Main Street Bridge project, had also been fraudulently diverted to thieves through similar means, according to the statement.

Investigators believed that the scam originated overseas.

Though no town staff has been implicated in the scams, MacStay reports that the staff who twice fell for the scams had been placed on leave pending the conclusion of the investigation.

MacStay has said that the town reached out to Gov. Chris Sununu and other state leaders for help. Rep. Peter Lieshman, D-Peterborough, said there is no mechanism in state government to make a town whole when it loses money to a crime.

“Anything that requires funding, requires legislation,” he said.

Lieshman said it is unlikely the state legislature would come up with millions for Peterborough.

“That's a huge ask, and we fight over nickels and dimes,” he said.


Photo by Damien Fisher

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