Exclusive: Seminole County Public Schools taken for $1.3 million in email phishing scheme

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Seminole County Public Schools recently became the victim of an email phishing scheme.


School district officials, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, and the Secret Service are not releasing many details about the crime to Channel 9.

However, an SCPS source told Channel 9 that the online scheme built the district out of a little more than $1.3 million which came out of the district general fund.

Since the district is self-insured, that money will not be able to be replaced, unless it is recouped by federal authorities, and could impact things like future pay raises and bonuses in the district.

The incident took place on December 15, 2023 but school district officials did not report it to the Seminole County sheriff’s office until January 2, 2024.

Seminole County sheriff’s office would only provide a heavily redacted incident report of the incident.

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When asked a district spokesperson would not provide many details of what happened, but did provide the following statement to Channel 9. “Upon discovery of an error, SCPS immediately took action and continues to work closely with law enforcement to address this incident. This is an ongoing investigation, and as such, no further details are available to be shared at this time.” Katherine Crnkovich APR, CPRC Communications Officer Office of Communications

According to our source within the district, the finance office received what looked like an official email from one of the district vendors, asking to change their banking information and to pay their bill into the new account account.

That same source told Channel 9, the employees deemed the email legit without verifying the information and the change was made, allowing the scammers to build the district out of $1.3 million.

“Asking to change banking details, that should always set off red flags, says Eva Velasquez, President and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center , a non profit organization. Velasquez says these scammers are getting more sophisticated, and organizations have a process to determine the of any incoming communications when it comes to banking information.

“The bad actors know that they can insert themselves, they can pretend to be these entities and make these asks, and if there isn’t that good amount of double-checking, they know that they can be obscure with that money,” says Velasquez, who added that there might be legitimate reasons to not share information, right away with the public, however, in the long-term, she says organizations and individuals should be sharing the information with employees and the public to educate people on what to look for. “Because we want to warn other organizations and frankly, individuals, that this is real, and this, this can happen. And this is how it happened, understanding the root cause, and where the vulnerabilities were, and where the deficiencies were.”

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SCPS would not comment on the status of the two employees who made those changes in order for suspect gain access to the money.

Our source in the district told us they were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

The Seminole County sheriff’s office told us the reason they are not releasing many details about the investigation is because this is a secret service investigation, and they do not have to be released because the school is afforded an exemption while there is an open investigation.

Attorneys for Channel 9 wrote a letter today to the general counsel for the Seminole County sheriff’s office, asking them to release more details about the investigation.

Just before 6:00 pm, they released a few more details to us after that letter was sent.

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This is developing story.

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Jeff Levkulich

Jeff Levkulich, WFTV.com

Jeff Levkulich joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in June 2015.