Volunteer fire department sees $220,000 raised for ambulances disappear in cyber crime

A view down the length of a fire truck parked in front of a fire station, with fire rescue labeled on the side.
A view down the length of a fire truck parked in front of a fire station, with fire rescue labeled on the side.

Around $220,000 was stolen from a Maryland volunteer fire department in a cyber-attack last month, according to a report put out by the Rockville station.

The money was being held for the purchase of two new ambulances the department desperately needs, the release states. It was taken by criminals impersonating a vendor working with the station to secure the new vehicles.

A bad actor intercepted the wire transfer email thread to slightly change the bank routing number to send the transfer to London.

“If you looked at it and followed the string, you’d have to look very, very closely to see that one letter was changed in the email string," Eric Bernard, the president of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department said in an interview with WJLA.

"The email string continued for a while. We made the wire and five days went by and our vendor said 'Hey you gonna finish that wire we were on the phone (about),'” Bernard said.

Half of the money has since been recovered

Half the department's money has been recovered, according to the news release from the station.

The Montgomery County Police Department was contacted as soon as the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department caught on to what was going on. The United States Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were brought in on the incident as well.

More than 80% of what the RVFD deals with is Emergency Medical Services, WJLA reported.

Last year the RVFD had "a total of 14,662 unit responses making Rockville Volunteers some of the most active firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics in the nation," according to the release.

"Thanks to decades of generosity from the community RVFD serves, we remain in a strong financial position to both complete this purchase and to continue operations as normal," The RVFD reported.

Those interested in helping replenish the department's funds can visit www.rvfd.org/donate. A GoFundMe is being set up and will be live soon.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Maryland volunteer fire department has ambulance funds stolen online