Red alert on deposit fraud
30 September 2004 - Finance 24
Johannesburg - The Ombudsman for Banking services (OBS) warned the public on Thursday to be careful of fraud involving false or stolen cheques.John Simpson, manager of investigations for the OBS, said his office has received complaints from the people who sell goods to a buyer only to discover that the supposed deposit into their bank account was made with a fraudulent or stolen cheque.
"We have received a number of complaints on this issue and we would like to warn the public what to look out for," Simpson said.
"We hear horrific stories of people who have been conned and have suffered huge losses as a result of the scam."
He said the scam could be perpetrated in several ways.
One is that the seller advertises his goods and the thief establishes contact and offers to buy. he then offers to deposit the selling price in cash into the seller's bank account and promises to fax the deposit slip as proof of payment.
The thief then deposits a stolen or forged cheque into the seller's account. A deposit slip is forged to reflect that the deposit was made in cash and the slip is faxed to the seller.
Only after the seller has handed the goods over to the buyer does he realise that the deposit was not made in cash.
The thief can also deposit a stolen cheque for a larger amount and ask the seller to transfer the balance back to him.
"The seller, thinking the deposit was in cash, does so, only realising later that the deposit was fraudulent."
Simpson said a deposit slip should never be accepted as proof of payment. Written verification should always be obtained from the bank before any goods are handed over or money is transferred back to the buyer.
:"Where cheques are deposited, ensure they are legitimate. Rather request special clearance on cheque deposits. This way the cheque is sent to the drawer's bank for verification before it is paid. Do not hand over any goods until the cheque is fully paid."
He also warned the public to be wary of people offering to buy goods without having seen them, or of people who send their drivers to pick up goods.
"The banks are urged to continue assisting customers ion preventing them from being defrauded in this manner."