KENNEWICK, WA - Benton County is currently trying to recover $717,201.44 of County funds after falling victim to a social engineering phishing scam.
In October 2019, Benton County got an email from the scammer claiming to be a representative of the County contractor responsible for multiple building construction projects. The scammer requested the County update the contractor's payment information, so they could receive the funds for the projects.
After the payment information was updated, the County processed invoices for payment to the contractor and a total of $740,216.79 of County funds were deposited to the scammer's fraudulent account in November 2019.
In December 2019, Benton County became aware that it had been the victim of the scam, and contacted proper authorities to begin an investigation.
It was found that the fraudulent account had been frozen and closed by the bank after the deposit of County funds, but not before about 3%, or $23,015.35, of the deposited funds had been withdrawn from the account through debited transactions.
Federal authorities seized the remaining about 97% of deposited County funds from the fraudulent account, in the amount of $717,201.44. Benton County is working with federal authorities to have the seized funds returned.
The County is currently reviewing their internal policies and procedures to minimize the risk of a similar incident occurring in the future.