On Thursday, 29 July 2021, while on patrol with the Namibian Police, Bank Windhoek's Customer Contact Centre Agent Bonifacius Chaunelesethle caught a scammer in the act. Chaunelesethle found a middle-aged man on his way to a Bank Windhoek Automatic Teller Machine to withdraw an EasyWallet at 01:00, outside of curfew hours.
A reservist in his private time and with his banking knowledge, Chaunelesethle noticed something suspicious right away. He asked the man to explain the urgency for the withdrawal of the money. The man replied that his landlord needed the funds immediately. "With his permission, we took his phone and asked him to provide the name of the person that sent him the money, which he could not do; it was suspicious. I asked the officers to keep him in custody until I could contact the sender," said Chaunelesethle. "Over the years, we notice that scammers usually withdrew customer's money during early morning hours, while they are asleep."
The Namibian Police apprehended the man for contravening curfew. Meanwhile, to assess whether the customer transferred the funds voluntarily or was scammed, Chaunelesethle contacted the customer at 08:00. "She confirmed that she was phoned by a man the day before claiming to be a Bank Windhoek employee," said Chaunelesethle.
The customer told Chaunelesethle that the fraudster requested her to provide her banking details. Since the impostor was convincing, the customer gave her banking account and the Personal Identity Number (PIN). She was then asked to switch off her phone for updating purposes. Chaunelesethle informed the customer that Bank Windhoek would never call customers to ask for their banking details, especially the account PIN.
Bank Windhoek's Manager of Forensic Services, Johnny Truter echoed Chaunelesethle's sentiments: “Customers must never give the PIN out; the fraudsters can enter the customer's digital profile, take over their profile, and even register for digital services like the EasyWallet. The customer is mostly unaware of this and by that time, the scammers may have emptied the account," he said. “Therefore, customers must immediately call the Bank's HelpDesk, inform them of the scam to cancel these services," said Truter. Chaunelesethle added that as staff members, they do not even have to know customer's PINs.
The Police found that one of the numbers that received the fraudulent Easywallets belongs to the con artist. With permission from his line manager, Chaunelesethle gave his statement to the Namibian Police to validate the customer's case against the fraudster. "We could only retrieve some of the money, the rest of it the scammer admitted to having spent the day before. He is currently in custody at the Namibian Police Station in Windhoek," said Chaunelesethle.
Bank Windhoek's Customer Contact Centre Manager, Deborah Henckert, applauded Chaunelesethle for ensuring that the impostor could not steal more money from the customer's account.
Being vigilant is key in combating fraud
Truter advised customers not to respond to emails, texts, or phone calls asking for their personal information or people asking them to wire them money. "Practicing vigilance remains one of the most robust defences to curb fraud. Avoid the message and call your financial institution directly," he said, adding that Bank Windhoek will never ask for customer's personal information over the phone.
A crime-fighting volunteer, Chaunelesethle, said the conman told him they get customers' personal information from death announcements and social media platforms such as Facebook. "The scammer learned the illegal activity while in prison," he said. "We should assist the police in fighting crime, especially by providing them with information; it will benefit the country as a whole," said Chaunelesethle, he encouraged customers who are victims or suspect that a scammer targets them, to contact Bank Windhoek's Customer Contact Centre immediately to report the incident at Tel +264 61 299 1200.