Hackers broke into computer systems at a Massachusetts chapter of the United Way last month and attempted to make off with more than $150,000 from one of the nation’s largest charities.
Patricia Latimore, chief financial officer at the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimac Valley, said unknown attackers tried to initiate a number of bogus financial transfers out of the organization’s bank account, but that the United Way was able to work with its bank to block or reverse the unauthorized transfers.
“We were able to pretty much capture things as they were happening,” Latimore said. “Fortunately, we saw it on the day that it occurred.”
The intruders attempted to send more than $110,000 in unauthorized payroll transfers to at least a dozen individuals across the United States who had no prior business with the United Way chapter. At least one large wire transfer was attempted, for nearly $40,000, to a 32-year-old man in New York.
William Hong, of Flushing, N.Y., said he was approached in late December by an entity calling itself the Classic Group. Hong said the company, which gave its Web address as classic-groupco.ws, told him it had found his resume on Monster.com and asked would he like a work-at-home job as a financial manager?
Hong, who is and was unemployed at the time, said he took the job, and that the application process required him to fax an employee agreement, a canceled check, a copy of a utility bill or his drivers license, along with his bank account information. Hong gave his erstwhile employers the account and routing numbers for Merging Stone Capital Group Inc., a company he had started several years ago.
Hong said he didn’t hear much from the Classic Group until the last week of January, when he received notice that a wire transfer of $39,800 had landed in his business account. But the money didn’t stay there long enough for him to make it to the bank and wire it overseas, as instructed by his employers.
“It got the transcript from my bank and it shows that the United Way of Massachusetts Bay direct deposited the funds, and then reversed the funds right after that,” Hong said. “I guess, you know, that saying is right, about when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”