I got a contract to supply certain products to a certain buyer. I did a search for the goods I needed and found a supplier online. I requested a quote. I also requested an invoice after I was happy with the quote.
Just to be sure I was dealing with a legit company, I did a search on their registration number and VAT numbers that appeared on the invoice. I found the numbers to belong to another company, unrelated to what the supplier does. ALARM BELL!
So, I decided to verify their bank account details. I deposit an R100 rand on an FNB ATM. The slip confirmed that the account number belonged to an individual and not a company. ALARM BELL!
I called the supplier again and asked them to give me a bank confirmation letter with their details and bank account number. The supplier sent two confirmations, minutes apart from each other. ALARM BELL!
Confirmation 1 had the registration number that I had confirmed as belonging to another company. Strangely though, it also had a different trading name to the one on the invoice I had received. Also, the account number on the confirmation was different from the one on the invoice. ALARM BELL!
I think the supplier realised their mistake and sent another confirmation letter a few minutes later. This one had the same trading name and registration number as confirmation 1. The only difference was that the bank account number was now the same one as that which appeared on their invoice. ALARM BELL! But obviously by this time I had lost interest in dealing with them and had already taken steps to report the matter.
I have since reported this to the FNB fraud department who confirmed that there is something suspicious about this company and account details. They are busy investigating this. Concerned about the other company whose details are being used for criminal activities, I tracked them down and informed them of this. They are also busy investigating this.
While many will not take this seriously, there are many who have fallen victim to these seemly simple scam tricks. Therefore, I urge you to be vigilant at all time. But, before I go here are a few lessons:
1. Always do a thorough background check on any company/supplier that you deal with before transacting. A Google search or Hello Peter search could save you a lot of trouble/financial loss.
2. Verify the registration details on CIPC
3. Confirm the VAT registration numbers via the SARS website. If you deem it necessary, ask them to send you a Tax clearance PIN for verification purposes.
4. Always request a bank details confirmation. Better still, do a test transaction to be sure the account details are correct. Bank confirmations letters may be tempered with. Try and insist on the original bank stamped letter.
5. Ensure that you have payment authorisation steps/processes in your company that detect and prevent fraud.
6. Always insist on a valid tax invoice, without it you will not be able to get your VAT back if you are a registered vendor.
7. Always visit the supplier premises before transacting with them. If they say they are manufacturers, surely they should have a manufacturing plant somewhere on this earth.
This article first appeared on Lazarus Kaseke’s LinkedIn Profile.
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