✖ Close Social Content
County Manager

BernCo Updates Electronic Funds Transfer Policies

02/05/2020

The accounts payable section of the Procurement and Business Services Department of Bernalillo County has expanded its policies and procedures regarding electronic funds transfer payment processes.

This follows two attempts to swindle the county of money and one successful case of fraud involving a bogus bank account and the use of fraudulent Automated Clearing House (ACH) transactions and a voided check.

Using an online county form posted on the accounts payable external website, scammers created an email address resembling that of a legitimate county vendor, requesting to change its method of payment from a check to an ACH deposit. Attached to the email was a fraudulent ACH form and a forged voided check. After the vendor’s account was updated in the county’s accounts payable system to utilize ACH deposits, nine invoices, dated from Oct. 21 to Dec. 5, 2019, totaling more than $447,000, were deposited into a fraudulent bank account in Texas.

The criminal activity was immediately reported to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department who in turn reported the fraudulent interstate commerce issue to the FBI.

Bernalillo County is ensuring proper payment to the impacted vendor. Bernalillo County carries insurance and is seeking to recover its stolen money.

“We are the unfortunate victims of our own willingness to be a totally transparent government body,” says Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca. “Our efforts to be a very user-friendly county opened the door for someone to take advantage of our accessible and open business nature.”

To stop any future attempts to defraud the county additional safeguards are in place:

  • Internal procedures have been reassessed and expanded
  • All information available through the transparency portal is being needs-assessed
  • Procurement and Business Services staff has received training on identifying fraudulent emails
  • County staff received additional fraud training from Wells Fargo Bank, the county’s fiscal agent
  • The county is in talks with Wells Fargo to implement a third-party verification process

“Becoming a victim of fraudulent activity has an impact on both the county and taxpayers,” says Procurement and Business Services Director Dinah Esquivel. “Protecting our vendors and the funds entrusted to us by the citizens is our top priority. We are a better agency today.”

The Bernalillo County Information Technology Department has been investing heavily in employee education and awareness as well as technical controls to protect the county. The county has put a phishing program in place to simulate fraudulent emails and thereby increase employee awareness and knowledge. Fraud training of key county departments has taken place resulting in improvements to business processes and controls.

“The accounts payable department took the training to heart and has done an outstanding job strengthening its controls and improving business processes and resulted in the prevention of two subsequent fraud attempts,” says Chief Information Officer, Robert Benavidez. “Bernalillo County has also adopted the National Institute of Standards and Technology cybersecurity framework and implemented multiple systems to protect the county and our community from exploitation by criminals.”

In addition to the Sheriff’s Department and FBI, the state auditor and attorney general, both the county’s internal and external auditors and the Bernalillo County Audit Committee are aware of the theft.

Bernalillo County continues to work with all law enforcement and financial agencies to remedy this issue and continues to address policies and procedures to identify and expose all attempts of fraud.

back to list
View All Events
    • Join us Fridays from 6:15 to 8:15 p.m. for Youth Open Gym Baskeball at Los Vecinos Community Center.
      Location:
      Los Vecinos Community Center, 478 and a half, NM-333, Tijeras
      Time:
      4/3/2020 6:15 AM - 4/3/2020 8:15 AM

    • Adults 50 and over are welcome to sell their good on the first Friday of every month for a minimum $2 donation. Space is limited to the first 10 vendors, though, so reserve early. For more information or to reserve a table call (505) 873-6647 or (505) 288-0801.
      Location:
      Rio Bravo Senior Center, 3910 Isleta Blvd. SW
      Time:
      4/3/2020 9:00 AM - 4/3/2020 1:00 PM

    • Art Along the Rio Grande: Experience Nature Through the Artists' Lens is a visual exploration of the ecological and cultural richness of the South Valley’s Valle de Oro Wildlife Refuge. The exhibit is a joint project of the Refuge, Gutiérrez Hubbell House, Friends of Valle de Oro, Hubbell House Alliance, and Bernalillo County Public Art. Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is the Southwest’s first urban refuge, located in the South Valley, just a few miles south of downtown Albuquerque. The refuge is in the process of restoring a former dairy farm back to a mosaic of native New Mexico habitats in order to provide an oasis for wildlife as well as an abundance of education and recreation opportunities for the community. The exhibit showcases the work of local artists in diverse mediums. For the past 7 years, photographers of all ages and skill levels have been invited to participate in an annual photo contest hosted by the refuge, to capture images of the refuge's wildlife, landscapes and people. This exhibit will feature the winning images from the 2019 photo contest, highlighting the refuge this past year as it begins restoration. Sketches and images from the Fall 2019 field mural project featuring 5 women muralists will be on display at GHH. The murals can still be seen at the Refuge, while sketches, photos, and other works reflect the goals and processes of the artists. Artwork by local Artist Wren Walraven, will also be featured. Wren’s artwork content comes from her personal experiences with wildlife, her passion for those animals and the magical desert scenery. Join us in this celebration of the South Valley’s environmental beauty, creativity, and community connections.
      Location:
      Gutierrez-Hubbell House, 6029 Isleta Blvd. SW
      Time:
      4/3/2020 10:00 AM - 4/3/2020 2:00 PM

    Powered by Real Time Solutions - Website Design & Document Management