News / South Africa / Local News

Jason Milford
3 minute read
20 Mar 2017
2:25 pm

Pretoria business owner defrauded of R300k

Jason Milford

The internet-based scam has been described by investigators as advanced and sophisticated.

File picture: Shutterstock

A Hennops Park businessman in Pretoria has become the latest victim of a con.

The Centurion resident lost R300 000 to a syndicate recently, Rekord Centurion reported.

Lyttelton police together with the independent financial crimes investigation organisation, IRS Forensic Investigations, are currently investigating a case of fraud, known as an “advanced fee fraud”.

According to documents, perpetrators demand upfront payment for a product or service and as soon as they receive the money, disappear.

The internet based scam has been described by investigators as “advanced and sophisticated”.

IRS has warned that there has been a spike in this type of fraud in recent months and that small business owners need to be alert when asked to supply products with unique specifications, only available from one supplier.

The business owner was said to have received what seemed an official invitation to tender from Johannesburg water utility, Joburg Water.

The tender was for a specific type of water pump and after searching the internet for the product and found a supplier whose website claimed the product was in Cape Town.

Now knowing he could supply the required item, the man completed the tender form and won the tender.

When he placed the order, the supplier demanded a 30 percent upfront payment.

The man said he duly paid the deposit, yet the product never arrived as promised.

When the man contacted Joburg Water directly, he was informed that utility had made no such request and therefore suggested he must have been a victim of fraud.

Chad Thomas, the chief forensic investigator of IRS said: “The fraud is very sophisticated and the fraudsters are exceptionally professional. Official looking tender documents are received purporting to emanate from either a government department, municipal department or a large company.”

Thomas said the tender documents and contact particulars would seem legitimate and the email addresses and phone numbers are created to look as if they were from authentic.

“The victim normally searches for the product on the internet and finds it available only from one supplier. When he contacts that supplier via the contact details on a professional looking website, he is informed that a deposit is required to secure the product.”

Thomas said the victim then returned to the buyer to say the product had been sourced.

“He is advised that he has been awarded the tender and he goes ahead and pays across the deposit to secure the product. Unbeknown to the victim the department advertising the tender and the supplier of the so-called product are part of a fraud syndicate and everything is fraudulent from the product specifications through to the fabricated website.”

Thomas said the first time he saw this type of sophisticated fraud was in 2013.

“A case was registered in Midrand. The fraud at that time involved a specific bolt and the victim lost over R1 million. Suspects operating from Vereeneging and Bronkhorstpruit were however arrested in that particular case.”

Furthermore, he warned that no matter how professional the tender documents appeared, the business owner should not contact the buyer via the supplied phone numbers and email addresses rather obtain the listed contact details of the organisation then contact its procurement department directly to verify if the tender is legitimate.

Thomas said the investigation was ongoing, and IRS was following up several leads.

Lyttelton police spokesperson Captain Dave Miller said the case had been transferred to the Wierdabrug police station for further investigation.