TRANSNAMIB on Friday issued a warning to its clients to be on the lookout for the 'change in banking details' scam in which a number of parastatals and other companies have been duped into depositing money into false bank accounts.
It said its clients should guard against falling victim to the scam, and requested that clients alert their relevant units or departments as TransNamib cannot be held liable for fraudulent payments resulting from the scam.
The scam is called a '419 scam', a name derived from similar Nigerian banking scams where fraudulent company letterheads and fake bank confirmation letters are sent out with instructions that money be paid into the wrong bank accounts.
"What happens is sheer money laundering," TransNamib said. "Usually these con people are very creative and innovative as they continue to change their strategies, targeting substantial sums of money from potential victims. Their strategy would, for example, involve careful disguise of their unlawful correspondences as they want to unlawfully benefit financially."
TransNamib said of note is the fact that the con artists' correspondence is handled either via fax or email "for ease of disguise".
It said the criminals obtain names of potential victims from a variety of sources, including trade journals, professional directories or newspapers, and that they do not necessarily target a single company.
"Victims are often convinced of the authenticity of '419 scams' by the forged or false documents bearing company letterheads, forged signatures, and so on. Therefore this is plain organised financial crime," TransNamib stated.
Rössing became a victim when it paid N$2,9 million into a fraudulent South African account, believing it was paying its TransNamib account.
The mine made the deposit in response to a letter on a TransNamib letterhead, which stated that TransNamib's bank account details had changed, and gave the number of the purported new bank account.
The letter brazenly states: "We shall not be held responsible for any payments made in the old account. Kindly sign below to confirm compliance and receipt of this communication and fax back to ... Your cooperation in this regard would be greatly appreciated."
The letter was signed by a certain Sandra Stuurman, "for Accounts and Admin", as well as a forged signature purported to be that of Sara Naanda, the then deputy chairperson of the TransNamib board and recently appointed CEO of TransNamib.