Fraudsters offer businesses false Public Works quotes

2013-11-05 00:00

SMALL businesses beware. Invitations for quotations from government departments may not be all that they seem.

There is a nationwide scam taking place where fraudsters pretend to be employees of the government.

They get into contact with small business owners asking for quotations on goods. They provide documents that appear legitimate, using official departmental logos that are downloaded from the Internet. After the goods have been delivered, the thieves disappear and the businesses are never paid.

Vani Naidoo, owner of Liqui-Chem, was almost the victim of this scam, but was warned before she parted with any of her merchandise. Naidoo received an invitation for a quotation, supposedly from the Department of Public Works, requesting a quotation on 353 digital cameras.

“I do a lot of work with the government, so I know the criteria for dealing with them. I showed the documents that were faxed to me to my brother, who also has a business. He warned me that this is a scam. A business partner of his was scammed in a similar way,” Naidoo said.

The business partner who was scammed refused to be named, but said he received documents from the Department of Heath that looked very official.

The Witness has seen the documents sent to Naidoo that have the official Department of Public Works logo.

It is unknown how many people are involved in the scam or how they get the contact details of business owners.

“It is very worrying that these characters have all our details. The guy had my cell number, business number and information only Treasury should know. We are at risk. Small business owners need to be careful,” said Naidoo.

The documents sent to Naidoo were from a David Baloyi from Pretoria. This was the first sign that something was wrong. Naidoo wondered why the Pretoria office was looking for quotations in Pietermaritzburg. Upon further inspection, an error was found in the fine print, saying the contract was binding to the Department of Health, although the letterhead was from the Department of Public Works.

Thamsanqa Mchunu from the Department of Public Works confirmed that the documents sent to Naidoo were a forgery and that they do not have a David Baloyi working in the department.

When called by The Witness, Baloyi asked to be called at lunchtime, after which he did not answer his phone again.

Mchunu warned that members of the public must phone the department concerned to confirm and verify all details of transactions, including those of a purported order.

“The department has issued a number of statements urging the public to be alert to this form of criminality. The public must never trust anyone who promises a business deal, especially when a supplier has never applied for any business with the department. Service providers must never agree to deliver goods in the street or in private houses. Goods that are purported to be bought by the state can only be delivered at a state department,” said Mchunu.

According to Mchunu, all government departments have websites were one can check up addresses and contact details for those offering business.

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