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Pretoria - A large number of City of Tshwane staff have had money deducted from their bank accounts after someone in the metro allegedly leaked their banking details to a conman.
The staff were apparently defrauded of small amounts - as these can often go undetected - because not all banks send out notifications for amounts under R100. The deductions were made on Monday morning after staff’s salaries had been paid into their accounts.
The suspect, who holds a business account at Sure Bank in the city, allegedly received the banking details from someone in the city’s human resources department.
It could be the work of a sophisticated syndicate, and has to be an inside job at the Tshwane metro as this is the only way that this information could have been leaked.
The City of Tshwane is investigating how such information may have been dished out. To avoid detection, the suspect transferred R98 from several accounts into the business account.
It is alleged the suspect could have got away with tens of thousands of rand.
However, Sure Bank’s Karen Zwiegelaar said she could not disclose how much money had been deducted or how many Tshwane employees might have been affected.
Zwiegelaar said this was not the first time an incident of this nature had occurred.
She said she was aware of at least four similar incidents in recent months.
A member of the Tshwane Metro Police, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Pretoria News she had become suspicious after receiving SMS notifications of deductions twice on Monday.
“I was lucky to get an SMS because others might not even have detected that money had been deducted from their accounts because it is such a small amount,” she said.
The employee received an SMS from her bank on Monday morning, saying her salary had been paid into her savings account.
A bit later, she received two more SMSes saying two payments of R98 each had been deducted from her account. “I had no idea what the amount was for and called my bank (Absa) to find out.”
The bank advised her to reverse the transaction, so she called Sure Bank for more information.
“They (Sure Bank) said they had received a number of calls about the same thing,” she said.
Zwiegelaar said the bank had received a number of similar complaints. It froze the account concerned so no more transactions could go through. The bank immediately started the recovery process, which is continuing.
In cases like this, a fraudster would transfer money, but then withdraw it immediately.
“They are very clever. They deduct such a small amount that you don’t notice it or pick it up if you don’t scrutinise your account,” Zwiegelaar said.
She said this could happen to any bank and Sure Bank was not responsible for the dealings of third party suspects.
The account holder has been contacted and now has to bring documents (mandates) to prove he has access to all the accounts.
It often happens that fraudsters can provide mandates, but forge the signatures of their victims.
“This is not a small-time criminal. These people are businessmen and are sophisticated,” Zwiegelaar said.
To open a business account with Sure Bank, the applicant must have a registered business and is subjected to a rigorous approval process.
“They come out lily white,” Zwiegelaar said of the level of sophistication.
It had become easier for criminals to gain access to the public’s banking details, she said.
“People have to be vigilant and not disclose their banking details to anyone,” she said.
The culprit can be caught only if the employees open a case of corruption with the police.
Council spokesman Blessing Manale said the matter was being investigated and would take a high priority in the metro.
“If a City of Tshwane employee is found to have leaked payroll lists deliberately they will be suspended immediately.
“Criminal charges will also be laid,” he said.