A number of business people have come forward to describe how they avoided being statistics of the rampant fraudulent orders scam after they confirmed authenticity of the order of the tender with the National Department of Public Works (DPW).
The DPW is currently engaged in a campaign to warn the public about a wave of scams that has increased in the past couple of years, preying on both big and small companies by using false addresses and posing as DPW’s employees, offering these companies “tenders”. Four businesses were saved by confirming with the department, the legitimacy of the “tenders” that were awarded to them by fraudsters.
One Free State businessman described how he was almost scammed by a fraudster using DPW fake documents. Mr Herman, director of Hygiene Outright in the Free State, evaded the scam that would have cost him R 800, 000 worth of goods.
Hygiene Outright is a public company that sells thermostats. Mr Herman received a letter awarding him a tender for thermostats worth R800 000. The “official” letter had the department’s logo. The letter sent to the director awarded him of the tender on the 21st of October, 2015, for a tendered amount of R 803 410.21, and the delivery date was scheduled for the 28th of October, after he had paid the suppliers.
The fraudster masqueraded as a Public Works employee. Mr Herman then delivered R 400 000 to his supplier in Cape Town to prepare his goods to be transported to the fraudster.
He discovered it was a scam when he went to the Head Office of the department in Pretoria to deliver his goods to the ‘department employee.’
“When I went there (Head Office) to deliver, they said there is nothing to deliver, there was no such tender. “I then sent an invoice with order numbers and they were confirmed to be fraudulent, he said
Mr Herman’s proactivity proved to be saving grace for the company as he had prepared R 800, 000 worth of Thermostats.
Another company that evaded being scammed is New Holland, a national tractor-distribution company which believed the tender was legitimate after receiving an email invitation to tender. They sent a quotation via e-mail after they ‘won the tender’ to deliver more than five tractors to a false DPW address in Rustenburg.
Mr Johann Barnard, regional director of New Holland for Mpumalanga and Free State, was the person who handled the transaction.
“I spoke to him [the fraudster] in the morning before the day of delivery and he said he was working out of the office. I was supposed to bring the quotation to him personally but he suddenly changed plan and said it must be posted instead.”
With the trucks loaded and ready to go deliver, Mr Barnard made numerous attempts to get hold of his contact. After failing to get hold of him, he then went into the departmental website in order to get a landline number. That is when the whole scam was exposed after he came through to the real official whose name had been fraudulently used.
Mr Barnard was warned that this is a fraudulent order and he should not give his tractors to anyone claiming to be an official of the department. Once again by being proactive and curious, a businessman was able to save his employers over two million rand’s worth of goods.
Another company that survived the scam was a KZN-based company, TCM Forklift Company. This company escaped being victims of the scam by insisting on a pre- payment before delivery. The scammer had offered to pay after the deliveries were made.
After getting suspicious about the request to deliver goods first, TCM Forklift Management decided to google the name of the “official”. They then picked up the discrepancy in the contact details that were provided in the email offer for the tender. They called the number that was on google and came through to the correct official who then informed them that it was a scam. Once again the alertness of the company proved decisive in foiling a scam worth more than 130, 196.
The crimes have been reported to law enforcement authorities and police are investigating these scams. Currently, the whereabouts of the fraudsters who nearly scammed the companies are unknown, however, the department is investigating the cases.
The biggest loses in the spiralling fraud cases were incurred by an unsuspecting computer company after they delivered R18 million worth of laptops and computers to a false DPW address in Mpumalanga. No payment was transferred to them.
So far one suspect is facing allegations of fraud and is on trial with charges pertaining to this scam.
The modus operandi is almost the same in all cases. The offenders mask themselves as people who are employees of DPW, but they bear names of former or current employees in the department, with different contact details under false identity and address as DPW officials. They target enterprises and call them with a claim that the “Department has awarded them contracts.”
They operate by faxing forged DPW Order Forms to businesses that are targeted and ask them to deliver goods to certain addresses. No amount due to the supplier is paid.
The scam campaign is being carried out by a syndicate of sophisticated fraudster who are being sought after. Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West provinces are the most frequently targeted provinces.
These fraudsters also request the company to provide them with these documents: Company Registration Certificates, Certified Identity Documents of Directors, Fingerprints of Directors and Tax Clearance Certificate.
Businesses that deal with stock of computers, office items such as printers and toner cartridges, television sets and cell-phones are their most prominent targets. Also on their focus are businesses that sell building equipment such as disk blades, copper pipes and cutter blades. Many of these cases are open for investigation.
The department would like to emphasize that the public must be extremely vigilant. When in any doubt, they should verify all relevant details with the department on these numbers: 012 406 1463/2046/1439.
We cannot over-emphasize that suppliers should not deliver their goods on the basis of orders sent by so-called DPW officials. We have clear procurement processes that are transparent and professional. We deal with suppliers on our database only.
SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIAL NEWS