The government of Puerto Rico lost $2.6 million after it was the victim of an email phishing scam, according to the AP.
Rubén Rivera, finance director for the government's Industrial Development Company, said a complaint was filed with authorities on Wednesday (Feb. 12). The department got an email that said there was a new bank account connected to remittance payments, and money was sent to it erroneously.
Manuel Laboy, executive director of the agency, said the mishap was reported to the FBI as soon as it was discovered.
“This is a very serious situation, extremely serious,” he said. “We want it to be investigated until the last consequences.”
Laboy did not share how the phishing scam was discovered, or if anyone was fired. He also didn’t say how the missing money will affect the department’s operations moving forward. However, he did note that there was an investigation happening internally to figure out if someone had made a mistake or was negligent. The department is actively trying to get the money back.
The department has faced strong criticism from the people of Puerto Rico about the incident, as the country has been dealing with a recession for more than a decade, and some government services have been cut as a result.
“I cannot speculate about how these things might happen,” he said, adding that he takes the management of funds for his agency in high regard. “It’s a big responsibility.”
Puerto Rico is still trying to recover from Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017. It’s been actively trying to increase tourism in the country, and believes the sharing economy might be able to help in that department.
Last year, Puerto Rico's former Governor Ricardo Rosselló signed “Senate Bill 840, which will establish a process for the design and execution of the government’s public policy on the sharing economy.” The bill stipulates that “the Economic Development and Commerce Department (DDEC, by its Spanish acronym) [must] establish the standards and guidelines” for the sharing economy.