NeighborWorks Columbus is out $105,000 after phone lines were hacked over the weekend. Now local companies are learning from the incident.
You may know to protect your bank accounts, credit cards and other personal information, but your phone line? Some business owners are realizing that not even that is safe.
Besty Covington, Executive Director of the Community Foundation, says, "It makes me sad, it really does. It's unfortunate that this is the world we live in, but it does seem to be the reality, so I hate to be learning at NeighborWorks' expense."
NeighborWorks President and CEO Cathy Williams says, "Often we think we've done everything. I honestly didn't think I was vulnerable through a utility. That was a big surprise to me, and now that I see how simple it really was for them to steal $100,000 from us in a day. We're looking at all of our security measures differently today, and I think everybody needs to be hypersensitive."
Through the NeighborWorks debacle, other local businesses like the Community Foundation and D&S Sign Company are calling their service providers to make some changes.
D&S owner Genny Basch says, "It's already hard enough to be in business in this economic climate, to be a small business, and then for something like that to happen. That could potentially devastate or bankrupt somebody. It's really scary."
Williams adds, "The service providers also need to be training their people, you have to ask for that password, you have to verify the identity of the person who's asking for those phone calls to be forwarded."
Basch says her provider, WOW, has sent out a memo to representatives telling them to be on the lookout for would-be thieves and to encourage customers to password protect their phones. NeighborWorks provider Earthlink has been working with Williams to make changes in their framework as well.
Williams says, "If they had asked for verification, he wouldn't have been able to provide it and none of this would have happened."
"It was just crazy to me that it was done so easily, and it could have been so easily missed if they had not thought it was odd that the phones weren't ringing that morning," says Basch.
The Community Foundation Board of Directors is now looking at all aspects of their organization to make sure they aren't next. "Any sort of weakness in a business system, you need to plug it, and it's the unhappy truth of the business that we're in," says Covington. "At the Community Foundation, we've tried to take every avenue of protection that we can to make sure the money we're entrusted with is safe for this community for generations to come."
Williams says the tele-thief most likely got hold of one check and printed more with the account information. Many of the checks written from the NeighborWorks account were cashed outside of Columbus. It is now up to each individual jurisdiction to prosecute.
She says no NeighborWorks clients were affected by the fraud.
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