Steamboat police warn about rise in ski theft, fraudulent attacks
March 7, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A recent spike in fraudulent attacks and stolen skis has affected local residents, according to Steamboat Springs Police Department.
The incidents have led to the theft of thousands of dollars in money and property.
Several businesses have recently received what Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen referred to as "spoof emails" that target their payroll systems.
At a glance
Police tips to prevent fraudulent attacks
• Never leave your screen open to prying eyes when accessing employee information.
• When working in public places never use an unsecured Wi-Fi network.
• Always log out of email and work accounts when finished and refrain from using personal computer password keychains.
• Continually audit payroll as well as educate and train employees on phishing and potential scams.
The fake emails appear to come from someone within the company and request a change to an employee's direct deposit. The emails contain voided payroll checks and request the company re-send the checks to a new account.
Businesses send the money thinking it is going to an employee, when it actually goes to cybercriminals — a mistake that is hard to correct.
"Once the change is made, the money is gone, and the chances of getting it back are minuscule," the Police Department said in a news release.
In recent cases, businesses that fall victim to the email scam have each lost about $3,000, according to Christensen.
He explained the cybercriminals involved in the scams come from outside Steamboat, mostly from places outside the U.S.
"It's not like your next-door neighbor is sending this spoofed email," he said.
That aspect of fraudulent attacks, along with the speed at which cybercriminals move the stolen money to new accounts, makes it extremely difficult to recover the funds.
"Locally, we have very little to go on," Christensen said. "These are very difficult cases for us to investigate."
In most instances, officers refer local victims of cyberattacks to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is able to investigate across jurisdictions.
To prevent further attacks, the Police Department urges businesses to confirm the validity of any emails requesting money or personal information through a phone call or face-to-face encounter with employees.
"Companies should follow their internal safeguards as well as recommend that payroll changes be made in person if possible," the news release said.
A resurgence in traditional theft has accompanied these email scams, and in true Ski Town USA spirit, it has to do with skis.
In the past week, officers have received at least three reports of stolen skis around town.
Christensen called such an incident a "crime of opportunity," committed when people find valuable items unlocked and unsupervised. Officers have seen an uptick in skis stolen from ski racks, which can be secured with a lock system.
Christensen urged residents to remain vigilant about crime, even in a smaller town like Steamboat.
"We live in a friendly community and can be lulled into complacency," he said in the news release. "However, ensure you don't miss out on the next big powder day and lock up your equipment and vehicles even if just running in for a few minutes."