Otjozondjupa Regional Council loses almost N$350 000 in scam

31 May 2014 12:10pm
OTJIWARONGO, 31 MAY (NAMPA) – The Otjozondjupa Regional Council has lost nearly N.dollars 350 000 after falling victim to an electronic transfer payment scam.
Otjozondjupa Chief Regional Officer Jeaneth Kuhanga confirmed the incident on Friday.
“We have opened a case of fraud at the Otjiwarongo Police Station,” she said.
The money was lost via two bogus electronic transfer transactions on 01 April 2014 and 09 May 2014.
The N.dollars 350 000 was meant to settle the Otjozondjupa Regional Council’s monthly water bill and other outstanding amounts with NamWater, said Kuhanga.
She explained that a suspected conman allegedly got access to the details of the council’s outstanding bill with NamWater, which was then used in a ‘change of banking details’ scam.
Kuhanga said an e-mail was sent to the Otjozondjupa Regional Council’s finance department, with the suspected conman saying they were writing on behalf of NamWater.
The email said NamWater’s banking details had changed and instructed the regional council to change the banking details from Standard Bank Namibia to Absa Bank.
Absa is a South African bank which has its headquarters in Johannesburg.
The suspected conman further instructed the Otjozondjupa Regional Council’s finance department to deposit all monthly payments and any outstanding amounts into the Absa account.
“Our finance department fell victim to the scam and changed the banking details for NamWater on our system from Standard Bank to Absa. Later on, a huge sum of money was deposited into this new false NamWater account,” Kuhanga noted.
The council only detected mid-May that its outstanding debt with the water corporation for April and May 2014 had not been settled, and the matter was followed up with NamWater.
Kuhanga noted that by then it was however already too late since the nearly N.dollars 350 000 had already been paid into the Absa account.
Contacted for comment, Otjozondjupa Regional Council chairperson Otto Ipinge said the incident was only reported to him on 22 May.
He said the council will hold a meeting this week to discuss the matter.
The Namibian Police Force (NamPol)’s Otjozondjupa Regional Police Commander, Commissioner Joseph Anghuwo confirmed on Friday that a case of fraud was opened by Kuhanga on 21 May 2014.
Anghuwo said the Otjozondjupa police’s serious crime unit will team up with detective from the headquarters in Windhoek to investigate the matter.
No recovery or arrest has been made so far in connection with the scam.
Police investigations under CR no. 89/05/2014 continue.
Banks repeatedly caution their customers not to fall victim to scams of this nature. The Bank of Namibia (BoN) previously warned against such scams, which it said are thought to be run from South Africa.
It said in a media statement issued last year that Namibian companies (the debtor) are approached either through e-mail, via telephone or official business correspondence by an individual claiming to be an employee of a company/organisation (the creditor) to whom the Namibian company is indebted.
Such individuals supposedly advise the Namibian company that the creditor’s banking details have been changed and that all future payments should be channelled to the new account, of which particulars would be provided in the correspondence.
These individuals pretend to be employees of the creditor business/organisation and subsequently present false invoices on a letter head similar to that of the creditor’s invoice with the false banking details.
The BoN warned local companies not to transfer funds to honour payment obligations in cases where they have been advised of changes in the banking particulars of the creditor.
“This should only be done when one is absolutely confident and verified that the company initiating the change of banking details is indeed the creditor to whom monies are due and payable,” said the statement.