22 January 2013

Namibia: White-Collar Crime Widespread, Increasing

Windhoek — With money-laundering and so-called 'white collar' crime becoming more prevalent in Namibia, a group of financial security experts recently attended the first-ever course in the country in order to qualify as certified fraud examiners (CFEs).

The course, which included modules on finance, law, investigation, prevention and ethics was presented by the Risk and Investigation Training Academy (RITA) and took place late last year.

Once these participants write their finals exams this year they will become part of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), which is an international organisation committed to fighting fraud and corruption. The ACFE provides training to its members in the prevention, detection and investigation of white-collar crime. These crimes include the now infamous 419 scam, also known as the Nigerian Letter Scam, as well as online fraud.

"There is a definite increase in white-collar crime in Namibia and it is a very serious risk. Companies are losing big time if they do not have the people and procedures in place to deal with this sort of crime," commented Roman Bock, Head of Security and Investigations at NamPower, and one of the participants in the course.

Media reports last week indicated that Rossing Uranium Limited also fell victim to a white-collar crime scheme and ended up paying close to N$3 million into a TransNamib bank account, which turned out to be a hoax South African 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 for which the details were provided.

The fake letters were sent out by one 'Sandra Stuurman' to clients, according to a media statement issued by TransNamib last Friday. The letters were followed up by sending emails, as well as by follow-up telephone calls to debtors.

"Clients are warned to guard against falling victim to this scam, and are requested to alert their relevant units or departments, as TransNamib cannot be held liable for fraudulent payments resulting from this scam," the parastatal warned.

TransNamib Holdings has since issued a cautionary statement to all its clients not to fall prey to such scams.

Meanwhile, Namibia's commercial banks warn that internet banking scams are on the increase particularly online fraud and phishing. Phishing is an email fraud method in which fraudsters send out legitimate looking emails to lure banking clients to fake websites where these clients are prompted to log in with their online banking username, password and mobile phone numbers.

Typically, the message (and the fake website) appear trustworthy and appear to come from a known banking institution. If successful, the fraudster would assume the identity of the client and ultimately gain full control over the unsuspecting victim's bank accounts. Phishing is therefore a form of identity theft that depends entirely on the victim's co-operation. Commercial banks have on numerous occasions said that they will under no circumstances communicate personal information with clients via email, nor will clients be requested to submit confidential information to the bank via email or by clicking on a link.

The Namibian Regional Committee for Certified Fraud Examiners was established during October 2011 and their official launch took place during February last year in Windhoek.

The CFE is represented in Namibia and delegates from the office of the Auditor General, parastatals, including NamPower and Telecom, and non-governmental organizations, banks and insurance companies attended the training.

The Namibian Regional Committee is planning more workshops this year, of which the first is scheduled for February 14. The first course is expected to deal with topics such as cellphone and cyber fraud.

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