Canadian city loses big money in phishing scam

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark -- seen here in March 2019 at the Juno Awards -- has warned of the dangers of identity theft (AFP Photo/Tom Szczerbowski)

Ottawa (AFP) - The city of Saskatoon in Canada's western prairies has lost more than Can $1 million to a fraudster posing as a construction executive, in the latest online phishing scam to plague one of the country's cities.

The fraudster impersonated the chief financial officer of a local construction company to advise the city of a change in banking information in an email, the local government said in a statement.

The city then deposited a payment of Can $1.04 million (US$780,000) into the fraudulent account.

Police are investigating the fraud, which was discovered earlier this week, and officials are still trying to recover the funds, city manager Jeff Jorgenson told a press conference on Thursday.

"It's a million dollars of taxpayer money," said Charlie Clark, mayor of the city of 270,000 people.

"The world's changing quickly. The way that identity theft and the way some of these issues are happening can affect anybody."

Indeed, Ottawa's treasurer last year was duped into transferring almost Can$130,000 to a phony supplier. The scammer posed in an email as her boss requesting that the payment be made.

The city of Burlington, Ontario was similarly defrauded of more than Can$500,000, and a university in Edmonton, Alberta was swindled out of nearly Can$12 million in 2017.