Fort Lauderdale loses $1.2 million to phishing scam

‘Clearly, we have to come up with a better protocol,’ mayor says after city duped

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The city of Fort Lauderdale is now out $1.2 million after it fell victim to a phishing scam, according to police.

Detective Ali Adamson, a spokesperson for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, said city officials realized they had been duped after the city paid what it thought was a legitimate bill from Moss Construction, which is building the city’s new police headquarters.

There was “a copy of a blank check indicating it was from Moss Construction, so it all looked very legitimate,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said.

“It was all exactly the way that we have received request before, especially getting a check from the company,” he said.

It turned out to have been a fraudulent request for payment and wasn’t from the company. Officials are hoping to get the money back.

“Right now we are hoping to be able to claw it back since it was a wire transfer,” Trantalis said.

Police said the case remained an active investigation.

“We will be working with all appropriate law enforcement agencies to determine exactly what occurred,” Adamson said.

Adamson said FLPD “would like to take this time to remind our community to exercise caution when fulfilling payment requests and to stay vigilant and aware of potential scams.”

Cybersecurity experts said it’s important for governments to stay on top of threats and provide consistent cybersecurity training.

“You want to make it where every quarter someone is coming in and providing training and letting them know of what the latest threats are,” Reginald Andre, a specialist with ARK Solvers, said.

Trantalis had a message to Fort Lauderdale’s taxpayers.

“Clearly, we have to come up with a better protocol to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

A spokesperson for Moss Construction responded to the incident in a statement Thursday.

“Malicious actors took advantage of our good name and publicly available information to attempt a scam,” the spokesperson said. “This is a fraud case that is being actively investigated by the City of Fort Lauderdale officials and police.”

About the Authors:

Roy Ramos joined the Local 10 News team in 2018. Roy is a South Florida native who grew up in Florida City. He attended Christopher Columbus High School, Homestead Senior High School and graduated from St. Thomas University.

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.