MacEwan University recovers millions lost in phishing scam
The downtown Edmonton school said it has put stronger financial controls in place and is implementing IT security awareness and training programs for staff and faculty.
In late August, staff fell for a fraudster that posed as a building contractor asking for its banking information to be changed. The university didn’t realize what had happened until days later when the vendor – Clark Builders – called asking to be paid.
Speaking with 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen, MacEwan media relations advisor David Beharry said they went after the money as soon as they found out it was gone.
“Our internal team, our legal counsel, the fraud units at the bank and law enforcement agencies all came together and we are really thankful for all of their assistance.”
LISTEN BELOW: David Beharry speaks with 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen
They were able to get $10.92 million back. Most of the missing money – $11.4 million – was traced to a bank account in Montreal and to two accounts in Hong Kong. Beharry said $6.3 million was seized from the Montreal account and action was taken to freeze the two Hong Kong accounts.
No one was fired because of the mix-up, but some employees were taken off the job for a period of time.
“There were three employees that were put on paid suspension, those employees have returned to MacEwan,” Beharry said.
READ MORE: How to avoid email phishing scams
The university has since stepped up processes for changing the information of companies that work for it. Staff are required to verify any changes by phone and by a confirmation email, and a supervisor will review those changes.
It’s also beefed up training around avoiding these types of scams.
As for the remaining $900,000 that’s still missing, Beharry said that will be taken care of by a rainy-day fund.
“The university carries contingency funds in the budget as part of our normal business practice for unanticipated events, the contingency fund for this year will cover the loss.”
The fraud prompted Alberta Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt to instruct all university board chairs in the province to review their financial controls.
– With files from The Canadian Press
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