B’ec’ame I really suspicious when I realised that they were using a different bank account for the second payment
It was only when Patricia received a call from Wonga’s head of communications, Priscilla Urquhart, that she realised she had been the unwitting victim of a phishing scam that has so far conned more than 200 people into parting with their money. Two weeks ago, Patricia received an SMS from what she believed to be short-term lender Wonga.com.
In response to the SMS, she emailed her details and the amount she wanted to borrow. She received an SMS confirming receipt of the email and an application form was emailed directly to her.
“It was very convincing. It had a proper letterhead with director names, registration numbers and even the FSB [Financial Services Board] registration number,” says Patricia, who adds that she only became suspicious when the company asked for her to pay an amount of R2 425 for “attorney fees” to secure the R20 000 loan.
“I work in the financial industry and I had a funny feeling about paying the upfront fee because I hadn’t heard of that before, but then it made sense that it was for attorney fees,” says Patricia, who adds that in one of the emails the company explained that they did not do ordinary bank loans but raised money from investors.
Patricia thought the administration fees could relate to the work done to find investors to fund loans.
Wonga.com’s high profile and extensive advertising made Patricia feel confident that the loan was genuine.
Although a voice at the back of her mind was raising concerns, she paid the money into an Absa account and was told she would have the loan within 24 hours. Two days passed and she received another email, saying they required an additional R1 500.
“When I saw this, I phoned the number on the application form immediately and spoke to someone called Roberts Scott and told him it was illegal to charge an additional fee. He said it was a requirement, but asked me to put my concern in writing.”
Despite emailing her complaint, all Patricia got in response were further emails, urgently asking for the R1 500.
“I became really suspicious when I realised they were using a different bank account for the second payment,” says Patricia, who again phoned “Scott” and told him she wanted to cancel the application and have her money refunded.
“He said I would be reimbursed, but that was the last time I heard from them.”
At this stage, Patricia still believed she was dealing with Wonga.com and lodged a complaint on website Hellopeter.com. Two hours later, Urquhart contacted her directly and told her about the scam. Fraudsters posing as Wonga.com were conning people into paying for nonexistent loans. One victim paid up to R24 000 to the syndicate in the belief they were applying for a R2 million loan.
The scam has been going on for several years, but Urquhart says there has been a strong resurgence in recent months and a far broader base of individuals have been targeted – Wonga is receiving about 300 calls a week from people who have received the SMS. Wonga is aware of at least 200 victims, but that figure