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Ventura County online payment system may have been hacked; no financial data disclosed, officials say

March 30, 2011 | 10:24 am

Ventura County sheriff's detectives and the FBI are investigating whether a county computer used to process online payments was compromised by a foreign hacker, officials said Wednesday.

The investigators are looking into reports that a County of Ventura computer used in processing online payments was the target of an illegal phishing operation. According to investigators, the illegal phishing operation may have been based in the Philippines.

The hacker generated duplicate online payment receipts through emails to individuals who had previously processed payments through Ventura County Superior Courts or the online tax and telephone payment systems.

Officials said no financial or confidential information was disclosed because the county does not capture or store that type of data in its online payment system.

That information is captured by the county’s secure third-party payment vendor, whose system was not compromised. The Web system error that allowed this phishing incident was identified and resolved as of Saturday evening.

But as a result of the phishing incident, email addresses and additional information, such as telephone numbers, may have been captured by phishing perpetrators looking to solicit information or send spam.

Detectives said residents should be aware they could be contacted by solicitors via email or phone, stating there may be "a problem with a payment" and asking people to solicit funds or more personal information to resolve the issue.

If a resident receives such a call or email, they should not respond nor provide any credit card, financial or personal information, officials said. Instead, they should contact the County of Ventura’s Tax Collector or Superior Court to determine whether a payment is due.

Ventura County Superior Court can be reached at (805) 654-2965 and the Ventura County Tax Collector at (805) 654-3744.

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-- Richard Winton

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