Money stolen from Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County in apparent scam

WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Pa. — The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County said it is working with its insurance and the Federal Bureau of Investigation after falling victim to a fraud called a “vendor impersonation scheme.”

“It’s sad because we see this every single day,” said Warren King, the President of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Pennsylvania.

The scam is something the Better Business Bureau said is extremely common – and it can happen to businesses of all kinds. One of the most common forms is a Business Email Compromise.

“So, it doesn’t matter,” King told Channel 11′s Andrew Havranek. “There are estimates that the business community has lost in 2023, upwards of $3 billion for this BEC scam.”

Details on the alleged theft are slim. It’s unknown how much money was involved.

Private information for the MAWC’s more than 100,000 customers was not compromised, and service won’t be impacted.

“They’re a victim of fraud itself. No one has hacked into their accounts,” King said.

This is how the scheme works.

The Better Business Bureau says scammers impersonate someone in a business to get a victim to transfer money for certain services. They often make fake invoices that appear to be from a real client, and then steal the money once it’s transferred.

“Our experience with the Better Business Bureau is you’re never going to get the money back,” King said.

Despite that, the BBB said it’s important to report the fraud to the authorities.

The MAWC said they immediately reported this to their insurance and the FBI.

In a statement to Channel 11, the MAWC said, “MAWC is cooperating with law enforcement and our insurance carrier regarding a theft of funds meant for a vendor in late June. Customer information and MAWC infrastructure was not involved.”

The FBI wouldn’t confirm or deny their involvement in the investigation.

The BBB said the best way to prevent this from happening to your business is to double-check everything.

If you think an invoice, an email, or even a voicemail is fake, look for red flags like spelling or grammar mistakes and check the logo on the invoice for errors.

You can also call the real business to verify the payment request.

“These scammers are really good at what they’re doing, and they know how to get money,” King said.

The MAWC’s next scheduled board meeting is set for July 17, 2024, at 12 p.m.

Download the FREE WPXI News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Channel 11 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch WPXI NOW

Comments on this article