Phishing scam diverts more than $40,000 from Denver Public Schools

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DENVER -- A computer hacking scam has made $40,000 of direct deposit money for Denver Public Schools employees disappear.

Internet thieves are suspected of stealing the funds that were intended to pay the school district staff

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is investigating the crime, according to DPS. Investigators are trying to learn who, behind the privacy of a computer screen, funneled the money from direct deposit paychecks into an unauthorized account.

“We do what we can to educate our employees on phishing,” DPS spokesman Will Jones said. “We do our best to have firewalls in place.”

But those precautions were not enough to dodge the district-wide attack this week. Jones said emails were sent to employee accounts asking for usernames and passwords.

“The email was convincing enough that it made at least 30 people click on it,” Jones said.

Some of those employees fell for the phishing scam trap, allowing criminals to hack the district’s payroll system through individual accounts.

Once inside the DPS network, routing numbers were changed, sending direct deposits from the district to an unauthorized account.

The school district said it has since repaid employees what was owed to them. Jones said district officials will file a claim with its insurance company, hoping to recoup the loss of money originally paid in at least 14 direct deposits.

Jones said the district is committed to preventing future attacks, even though there’s no way to be completely safe.

“The more we do to protect our district, the more those cyber criminals are doing to try to get around our systems,” Jones said.

DPS said it has hired a third-party cybersecurity firm to make sure the best system possible is in place.

This is not the first time DPS has been victimized by a hacking attack. A similar situation took place in the district two years ago, Jones said.

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