RÖSSING Uranium Limited became the victim of a rather sophisticated banking scam when it was hoodwinked into paying a N$2,9 million TransNamib account into a hoax South African bank account.
The uranium mine reportedly received instructions on a TransNamib letterhead to settle its bill with the national carrier by making a deposit into a bank account whose details were provided.
When TransNamib did not receive the money, its debtor's department followed up the outstanding payment.
TransNamib acting CEO Eugenia Tjaronda told The Namibian on Friday that the matter was discussed and clarified with Rössing in detail, and that TransNamib was paid the money it should have received.
This means that Rössing has lost the N$2,9 million it paid into the fraudulent South African banking account. The acting managing director of Rössing, Shaan van Schalkwyk, said the matter was reported and relevant information was made available to the Namibian police for investigation.
The Namibian has it on good authority that the entire N$2,9 million paid into the South African bank account was withdrawn almost immediately after it was deposited.
Van Schalkwyk on Friday tersely stated that it had come to the attention of the mine that a "possible irregularity had occurred with regard to payments made".
TransNamib's Tjaronda ruled out any possibility of involvement by TransNamib staff, saying that Rössing had unfortunately fallen for a scam which the Bank of Namibia (BoN) had warned companies of in the first week of November last year.
A source said a number of Namibian companies have already lost "astronomical" sums of money in the scam.
Another company that has reportedly been defrauded is Namib Mills, and another attempt was made to defraud investment broker Simonis Storm Securities.
The fraudster, whose name is known to the defrauded companies and the police, is reportedly brazenly phoning companies to enquire whether they have indeed deposited the money into his bank account.
Tjaronda said TransNamib's internal auditors have been asked to ensure that its computer security has not been compromised and its financial department has been instructed to warn clients against the scam.
The BoN and commercial banks have sent out numerous alerts to companies and the public against various 'phishing' scams that include card cloning and money-laundering schemes. The banking sector is also shutting down bogus websites aimed at defrauding people.
Phishing is a process by which someone obtains private information through devious means to fraudulently assume someone's identity to get control of the person's banking details. Phishing is thus viewed as a form of identity theft that depends entirely on the victim's cooperation.
When approached for comment, Bank Windhoek's head of corporate communications and social investment, Riaan van Rooyen, said the bank cannot divulge the amounts of money stolen from unsuspecting individuals or companies due to client confidentiality issues, but said that all banks and clients are targeted.
One of the alerts sent out last year was about fraudulent email with the subject line 'internet banking message notice', claiming that Bank Windhoek's computer system has been upgraded to provide customers with a "faster, easier and more secure online banking experience". Customers were then asked to update their account information.
The bank promptly warned its clients that no bank is allowed to ask for client information via email and that such mail should at all times be treated with the utmost care and suspicion.