What's the difference between a letter and an email? Not a lot if it's a scam.
South Lanarkshire Council has been relieved of £102,000 by an African fraud gang. The gang sent a letter, (not an email), to the council claiming to be a contractor and informing them of a change in their bank details. They requested details of the council's bank account in return. Obligingly a council worker approved the request without doing any checks and £102,000 went out of the council's account and into that of the fraudsters.
Because the crime is classes as an external fraud the council is not covered by its insurance and it's unlikely it will get the money back as these types of offences are notoriously difficult to trace and bring to justice.
The deputy leader of the council's SNP group said:
"The finance department was sent documents on letter headed paper to tell them to change bank details. It's not something I have ever seen before and it wasn't like an e-mail scam, which many people get sent to their home computers. We are not sure who has done this, but it has been professionally done by a gang in an African country."
Of course it was like an email scam. Thousands of us receive letters and/or emails every day asking us to divulge personal details. For years now police have warned that we must never give bank details to anyone without checking their authenticity. All this employee had to do was check the name on the headed paper against the council's database, but it seems like they couldn't be bothered. That should be one of the golden rules of a finance department.
Graham Horne, the deputy leader continued:
"If the person involved took all the appropriate action then they shouldn't be sacked.
"We will need to investigate if the person did follow the correct procedures.
This incident happened during a week when the local trading standards team was warning householders to be on their guard against letters from people claiming to be the council and informing them that they had been moved into a different council tax band and were entitled to a rebate. They were then asked... You know the rest.