SARS scam hits consumers

By Staff Writer

Fraudsters posing as SA Revenue Service (SARS) officials are trying to take tax refunds back from an unsuspecting public, the SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) warned on Tuesday.

"SARS is currently refunding individuals who are entitled to tax refunds and thus the storyline is quite believable," said Sabric commercial crime head Susan Potgieter.

She advised the public not to respond to any requests without contacting SARS directly.

South Africans were also losing thousands of rand at the moment to a variation of the deposit and refund scam, Sabric said.

In the past, fraudsters deposited a fake cheque into their victim's account, claimed they had made a payment for too great an amount and asked for a refund before the fake cheque was discovered.

Under the new scam, there was no request for a refund. Payment was merely directed into a fraudulent account. Fraudsters usually targeted businesses claiming to work for one of their creditors and in possession of all the necessary contact details on both sides and the exact amounts involved.

"The fraudsters inform the victim verbally and in writing (using the creditor's letterhead which they fax) that their banking details have changed and the amount must be credited to a newly appointed account number and institution.

"Obviously the account number they provide has been fraudulently opened," said Sabric.

Victims deposited the money into this account and realised they had been scammed only when their genuine creditors contacted them about their outstanding accounts.

"There have been reports of incidents where stickers with new payment details have been stuck onto original invoices directing payment to fraudulent accounts," said Potgieter.

Sabric advised individuals to treat all payments seriously, to check with their creditors directly on telephone numbers other than those from which they were contacted, and to use the electronic transfers agreed on when contracts were entered into.

It advised businesses to treat with suspicion and investigate any request for a refund or unsolicited deposit, train staff to do the same and properly vet staff dealing with financial and other sensitive business information.

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