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Published: 27/03/2011 09:30 - Updated: 25/03/2011 18:56

Firm avoids £50k scam thanks to vigilant bank



A business had a lucky escape from a suspected scam after being asked to transfer almost £50,000 to a company in Dubai.

Orion Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Ltd, based at Bedford Technology Park, Thurleigh, was initially contacted by a man called ‘John’ who said he was from A-Four General Trading LLC in Dubai last month. He wanted to order around £5,000 of solar panels to be delivered to the country.

The sales team sent him an invoice with the firm’s bank details so he could pay the sum.

But earlier this month, Sean Handley, sales director at Orion, said they received notification from their bank – Lloyds TSB – about a cheque paid in to the branch in the High Street, Bedford, suspected to be fraudulent/counterfeit of £49,600.

In the meantime the company had received an email from the same address – this time from somebody called Mike – asking to confirm the payment ‘as soon as possible to enable us to proceed’.

It said that due to an ‘erroneous blunder made by the financial department’ they issued Orion’s payment with another company’s payment – therefore resulting in the £49,600 instead of the £4,797.

Mr Handley said: “The scariest thing about this is that somebody actually went into our branch bank in Bedford to pay in the cheque. We do deal with companies in Dubai so had no reason to suspect the order initially and so sent them our bank details.

“But what happens is that they then say they have overpaid you and ask you to transfer the money back to their account. While it shows on your account, it hasn’t actually cleared, so if you transfer the money then you’ll be out of pocket.” Mr Handley said he contacted the named ‘drawer’ of the cheque – an independent retailing and distribution company CJ Lang & Son Ltd, based in Dundee, and was told that somebody had stolen their cheque book a number of years ago.

He added: “When I spoke to them they said they had received a few calls about it. Luckily, Lloyds Bank is on the ball with this sort of thing and flagged it up before it got any further.” A spokeswoman for Bedfordshire Police said that a statement would be taken from Mr Handley and his colleague next month but it was likely the case would be referred to a police force in Scotland.

A spokesman for C J Lang & Son Ltd said: “We do not have a trading relationship with Orion nor have we issued any cheques to them.

“The cheque which Orion received is undoubtedly a forgery. We are grateful to Orion for making us aware of this attempted fraud and we have advised our bankers accordingly.”

A spokesman for Lloyds said: “We take fraud extremely seriously. We have a range of measures in place to help detect and prevent instances of fraud, but we also urge our customers to remain vigilant to suspicious activity relating to their businesses.” We could find no record of A-Four General Trading LLC in Dubai.

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Orion Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Ltd, 10 Grisedale Court, Woburn Road Industrial Estate, Kempston, Bedfordshire, MK42 7EE, UK

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