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Nigerian fraudsters ‘shop early for Xmas’

Bogus cheque scam targets UK resellers

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African fraudsters are attempting to fleece UK computer resellers in the run up to Christmas with scams involving counterfeit cheques and bogus credit card payments.

The Register has learned that one reseller specialising in audio-visual products has received bogus payments totalling £100,000 this month. This is not an isolated case: the fraud is being repeated across the industry and is growing in prevalence as the Christmas sales season approaches.

The financial controller of one scam target, who asked to remain anonymous, told El Reg: "The frauds involve the purchase of large plasma/LCD screens or LCD projectors and payment is by credit cards - up to three per order with almost consecutive numbers - forged bankers drafts and forged cheques.

The company received a number of cheques and was offered more from Uganda and Nigeria, he said. The cheques were assigned to the accounts of UK companies. "When I contacted one of the companies they confirmed that the cheque was [its] but had been written for a different amount to a different payee back in September 2003," he said.

The fraudsters attempt to explain why a UK organisation is paying for goods to be dispatched to Africa by claiming that the merchandise is destined for charitable organisations and that the cheques come from sponsors in the UK. They hope that suppliers will not stop to ask too many questions in the hectic run up to Christmas.

"It looks like fraudsters are shopping early for Christmas," our source commented, adding that resellers need to their common sense to avoid falling foul of the scam.

"If you get a cheque that doesn't match company or country to which goods are to be sent then start ask questions. Look closely and go back to company named on a cheque. If you have any doubts don't send anything out," he advised.

Online fraud prevention scheme Early Warning, which has recorded many such scams, warns that retailers problems don't stop even if cheques are initially accepted and processed by banks.

If a company whose cheques have been forged notices a fraudulent withdrawal, banks are able to reclaim funds from a cheque's beneficiary [e.g. a scammed retailer]. By this time the goods may have already shipped, perhaps leaving resellers out of pocket.

"A cheque can clear but banks have a right to come back for the money," said Andrew Goodwill, managing director at Early Warning.

The amounts involved in the latest run of frauds might be enough to scupper smaller resellers.

This month Computer Reseller News reported that Reading-based reseller Addictivity was forced into liquidation after being stung by £70,000 in fraudulent credit card transactions. ®

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