Internet hackers break into local elementary school's banking account

By: Sheli Muniz Email
By: Sheli Muniz Email
Deer Chase Elementary School

Deer Chase Elementary School fell victim to online banking fraud this year. (WRDW-TV / Dec. 6, 2011)

News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It's a way to steal your cash without ever getting near you. The weapon is a computer, and the target is your bank account.

In one year, the FBI had more than 6,000 complaints of cyber thieves just in Georgia. It's not just regular people who become victims -- a school district can be just as vulnerable.

It happened earlier this fall when a ring of hackers in Florida robbed thousands of dollars from a school, but the district says new measures should derail those thieves.

"We were actually at that time working with Suntrust to give all of our schools online banking," said Richmond County School Districts Spokesperson Louis Svehla.

Perhaps the training they were getting to avoid being victims of a cyber crime is what helped discover it.

"The bookkeeper at the school logging into her account said, 'Hey, wait a minute, this doesn't look right, these transactions aren't ours," Svehla said.

That's because they weren't. A look at those statements show payments made to Brighthouse, a Florida cable company and even child support in one. Four purchases in one month, all made in Florida and all on the tab of Deer Chase Elementary School.

This isn't the first time, though. This happened last year with the school's PTA account.

"What may have happened was it hit the PTA account and they continue to look for Deer Chase accounts and just happen to get one that was a school account," Svehla said.

Both were Suntrust accounts except that account is completely separate from the school district's. In that instance, these Florida based hackers took up to $8,000. The bank has since refunded the money to both accounts so now Richmond County hopes online banking pays off.

"I think it's going to help. We may be able to catch things a little quicker now that we have online banking and we can manage it from day to day," Svehla said.

As for the crooks somewhere in Florida, "Hopefully, the bank is able to catch those folks so they can't hurt anyone else throughout the country," Svehla said.

Not much is known about that hacking ring in Florida. This is now in the hands of Suntrust and they are doing their own investigation.

Svehla says there will be no need to do an internal investigation as this is an out-of-state company. They have handed everything over to the bank, but they say this is a reminder of how no one is immune to these type of crimes.


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