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Bernie Sanders group Our Revolution discloses $242K loss caused by email scam

November 29, 2018

Our Revolution, a nonprofit associated with Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, lost nearly a quarter-million dollars due to an email scam, tax records revealed Thursday.

Launched in late 2016 following the senator’s failed presidential bid, Our Revolution disclosed the incident on a federal tax filed earlier this month and first reported by Politico.

“Our Revolution became aware in early 2017 that funds were stolen from Our Revolution by an international syndicate of cyber-thieves targeting nonprofit organizations globally,” board member Jane Kleeb wrote in the filing.

“Specifically, Our Revolution was the victim of a Business E-Mail Compromise scam that took place in December 2016 but was not discovered until January 2017, resulting in the loss of approximately $242,000 via an electronic transfer of funds to an overseas account,” wrote Ms. Kleeb, who also chairs the Nebraska Democratic Party.

Our Revolution notified the FBI about the incident, and the nonprofit has implemented new security “measures, procedures and protocols,” Ms. Kleeb wrote.

The FBI did not immediately return a request for comment.

Also known as “CEO impersonation” schemes, Business E-Mail Compromise (BEC) scams typically involve cybercriminals posing as corporate executives or other high-ranking employees in order to initiate bogus wire transfer requests.

BEC scammers have achieved success in the past by imitating company CEOs in emails sent to legitimate employees asking them to send funds to bank accounts under their control. Such scams were responsible for over $675 million in adjusted losses last year, the FBI said, up 87 percent $360 million in 2016.

The nonprofit organization is not the only political entity targeted by BEC scammers, either. California state Sen. Richard Pan, Sacramento Democrat, said in April that his re-election campaign was duped out of $46,000 as the result of similar scheme, and a spokesperson for Ann Scott, the wife of Florida Gov. Rick Scott, said in September that she lost $350,000 because of “sophisticated email phishing scams involving her personal finances.”

Mr. Sanders, 77, helped launch Our Revolution after losing the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2016 to Hillary Clinton. A potential candidate in the 2020 election, Mr. Sanders also released a book titled “Our Revolution” a week after President Trump defeated Mrs. Clinton in the race.

The money stolen from Our Revolution had been raised through a campaign to help the Standing Rock Sioux Native American, former Our Revolution board member Lucy Flores told Politico.

“We’d done fundraising specifically on behalf of the tribe, and to have that money just be gone and never reach its intended purpose was unacceptable,” she said. “So we decided to give them the money that was raised and take the loss as an organization.”

Our Revolution raised $3.42 million in 2016, according to the tax filing, meaning the BEC scam cost the group roughly 7 percent of its total fundraising that year, Politico reported.

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