Advance fee fraud scam rears its ugly head

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek-Fraudsters are now luring some business owners with promises of tenders under the guise of one of the government’s ministries, only to defraud them of thousands of dollars. Known as the advance fee fraud, business owners have been warned against this scam by Standard Bank.

“It has come to our attention that various businesses and individuals have received unsolicited letters supposedly from senior government officials or the procurement officer of the Ministry of Health and Social Services. The letter suggests that the ministry is in search of surveillance systems for various hospitals, and put them in contact with a bogus supplier in South Africa,” Standard Bank’s PR and Communications Manager Surihe Gaomas-Guchu warned.

She further explained that the bogus company requests businesses to make a payment into their account for the purchase of the surveillance equipment; however, they never receive the equipment or the money back.

“The goal of this scam is to lure targets into thinking that they have been selected to participate in a lucrative arrangement. The target business or individual receives numerous documents with official-looking stamps, seals, and logos, which appear to testify to the authenticity of the proposal. The bogus supplier would provide false invoices and instruction to transfer funds to an account in South Africa. Once a payment is made, the fraudsters withdraw the funds, generally from ATMs and disappear,” she explained.

This is known as the infamous “advance fee scam” and comes in many forms. The scam occurs when victims pay an advance fee with the expectation of receiving something of value at a later date and then receive nothing in return.

Gaomas-Guchu however advised that one of the tell-tale signs to any scam is that if it is too good to be true then it is not true, and customers (or prospective suppliers in this case) should not fall for it until they have done their research.

“If you receive an email or letter such as this one from individuals you do not know, I suggest that you do not enter into any agreement with them and contact the respective official on the landline of the ministry and confirm the existence of the tender,” she advised.

It is important that you understand the business arrangement you are about to enter into, reviewing the terms with your lawyer, if they seem too complex for you, and make sure that the recipient account is legitimate by contacting your bank to enquire on your behalf before you make any payments.

“I want to advise all our customers to be wary of business deals that require them to sign a non-disclosure or non-circumvention agreements that are designed to prevent them from independently verifying the legitimacy of the people with whom they intend to do business. Con artists often use these agreements to threaten their victims with civil suit if they report their losses to law enforcement. I also cannot stress enough that you should know who you are dealing with and visit their business premises if you need to,” she concluded.

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