The Eastern Cape Department of Education has uncovered a cheque fraud syndicate that targets schools in Alfred Nzo municipality.
Victims of the syndicate include two schools in Mbizana and one in Flagstaff with fears that they may have incurred losses of more than R320 000. These criminal masterminds clone school chequebooks and conduct cellphone sim-card swaps of principals and school governing body finance committee members to validate cheques when banks confirm these transactions. So far, the department has discovered that only First National Bank (FNB) has been targeted with cheques being cashed in towns in the KwaZulu Natal South Coast.
An attempt to cash a cheque at the Sandton branch of the FNB resulted in an arrest. The department commended that the vigilance of the bank and said it appreciated that the bank had committed to refunding most of the money stolen.
The department urged all school governing bodies finance committees to continuously check their school bank balances to monitor unfamiliar transactions. The department said it has put systems in place with law enforcement agencies to track down the criminals and bring them to justice.
The department’s Themba Kojana said: “We urge all law-abiding citizens to co-operate with crime-busting agencies and report these criminal elements. I urge principals, SGBs and business owners to exercise a high degree of caution and constant vigilance in dealing with school-related transactions.”
He warned that if this was not “speedily nipped in the bud” it had the potential of disrupting normal teaching and learning in schools.