New scam: Criminals imitate suppliers and target local firms

Swakopmund firm, African Flooring, recently came close to being scammed out of N$500 000, after receiving a “fake invoice” from hackers posing as one of the company’s regular suppliers. The proprietor of African Flooring, Arno Coetzee, is warning the public, especially since similar cases have been reported since.
This scam involves hackers targeting unsuspecting businesses and the sole purpose is to steal money. Coetzee regards himself as fortunate, as he did not lose any money.
An investigation in the meantime determined that an e-mail correspondence between Coetzee and his supplier was hacked, which ultimately led the fraudsters to taking over the communications and providing him with a fake invoice.
According to Coetzee, he received the invoice from one of his “regular suppliers” located in Johannesburg. The amount on the invoice: N$449 230.15.
As he expected an invoice from his supplier during that time, with a similar amount, he did not think much of it, and contacted his bank, FNB.
He requested FNB to upload the supplier as a beneficiary, as he cannot transfer such a large amount of money. Thereafter, he proceeded to transfer the money on 14 November.
“After the transaction was completed, I sent the proof of payment to my supplier (the real one) who immediately informed me that there is a difference between the amount on the original invoice and the transferred amount”, he explained.
It was only then that the supplier sent the real invoice – the one he received prior was a fake, sent to him by hackers.
When he compared the two invoices, he noticed various discrepancies: The account was not the same – only the bank, Nedbank, was the same. He transferred N$449 230.15 into the “fake” account. “Obviously we were hacked. I immediately rushed back to my bank to stop the transaction from going through. I was sent to the police station to open a case, as the bank officials informed me they cannot cancel the transaction without a case register number of the police as a reference number”, said Coetzee. Luckily, and by mere coincidence, the South African Nedbank account Coetzee transferred the money into was already closed two weeks prior to him transferring the money – the money was therefore transferred back into his account three days later.
Coetzee was in the meantime interviewed by the Swakopmund Police’s Criminal Investigation Unit. “The Police really went out of their way to assist me”, he said.
He urges and warns the public to be vigilant and double check money transfers. He described himself as being extremely lucky that the account was already closed. “I believe that the person responsible for the scam is in Namibia”, he said.
FNB’s Group Communications Manager Elzita Beukes confirmed the incident and said that similar cases have been reported. “Our investigation has determined that Africa Flooring was corresponding with a supplier in SA independently from FNB. Along the line the correspondence (the email address) of the supplier was hacked and fraudsters took over communication and ultimately provided Arno (Coetzee) with a ‘fake’ invoice. The invoice looked authentic, it even had the logo of the supplier, and only the account details were different and were not the same of the legitimate supplier. He (Coetzee) made the payment believing that all was above board but it wasn’t”, Beukes said.
Beukes added that it is important that victims of fraud provide the bank with a case number as banks are unable to stop transaction while in “transit”. “Depending on whether we are notified before or after the payment has already reached the fraudulent account, a ‘hold’ is placed on that account and whatever available balance secured is remitted back to FNB via a legal process of indemnities”, she said.
As it is a standard operating procedure, victims of fraud are required to supply the bank with a case number as well as an affidavit. “For our request to free an account, they (a bank) must be fully assured that our client was a victim of fraud and indeed scammed”, she added. This process covers all respective banks as no bank is allowed to place a hold on an account without a valid reason.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login