South Lanarks Council tricked out of £102,000
South Lanarkshire Council in Scotland was the victim of a £102,000 bank detail sting and is reportedly one of several other local authorities targeted by West African fraudsters. Strathclyde police is investigating the confidence trick.
In what is believed to have been a Nigerian-directed operation the council received a letter that appeared to come from a genuine council contractor, informing the authority of a change in banking details and asking for its details in return.
A council employee approved the change without double-checking. The loss of the £102,000 came to light when the real contractor then applied for the payment. Categorised as an external fraud, the council is not covered by insurance and unlikely to recover the money.
News of the fraud increased the pressure on South Lanarkshire chief executive Archie Strang and finance director Linda Hardie, who face a censure vote from Labour councilors who are angry about such a pointless loss as the council is wrestling with budget cuts of £80m in the next three years. Strang meanwhile, has called in a team of independent auditors to investigate allegations of expenses fraud involving councilors, The Herald reported.
Ironically the “419” fraud was perpetrated when the council's own trading standards section was warning local householders to be on guard against a very similar council tax scam. Householders received letters reputedly from the Council telling them they were entitled to a rebate after their homes had been moved to a different tax band. They were asked to respond with bank details for the rebate to be paid.
Official UK figures indicate that 3m people are being stung to the tune of £2,550m in a year. The truth may be that this is only a fraction of those defrauded but too embarrassed to report.