Lawmakers call for probe after comptroller’s office fell victim to phishing scheme

Republican lawmakers in Nassau County are calling on the state to investigate the county comptroller's office after the county was scammed out of more than $700,000 of taxpayer money.

As News 12 previously reported, Nassau County Comptroller Jack Shnirman says his office was the victim of a phishing scam back in October.

Schnirman testified before the county finance committee that his office received an email that appeared to be authentic. The email requested payment to a vendor the county does business with be sent to a different email address.

But the comptroller's office was eventually notified by their bank that the account the money had been sent to was fake.

"This incident is a reminder that anyone can be a victim of cybercrime," said Schnirman.

"We can't guarantee -- Jack Schnirman can't guarantee -- that these mistakes haven't been happening for a period of time because of the inadequate controls the comptroller's office had in place," says Nassau County Legislator Steve Rhoads.

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The money has since all been returned, but Republican lawmakers are now questioning the safety of the thousands of other payments approved by the comptroller's office.

The GOP majority is now calling on the state comptroller's office and the Nassau County inspector general to investigate.

"This is a humiliating step for Nassau County and it's very hard for us to do, to admit that we don't have the proper controls in place to protect the taxpayers," said Deputy Presiding Officer Howard Kopel.

Schnirman tells News 12 his office has already improved financial control.

In a statement, Schnirman said:

"We continue to enhance those controls and look to partner with leaders and experts to stay ahead of this threat. Instead of cynically playing politics with public safety, I encourage the Republican Caucus to join me in working towards proactive solutions to protect taxpayers."

Schnirman also told News 12 that local governments across the nation are experiencing cyber attacks on a regular basis. In this incident alone, three to four other municipalities on Long Island were also targeted.