Cape Town medical supplier warns of tender scammers

“We estimate they stole well over R1m before we were able to shut them down,” Gabler Medical said.

30 June 2021 - 18:55 By sipokazi fokazi
A Cape Town medical supplier has cautioned of a sophisticated scam which uses phishing to defraud customers.
A Cape Town medical supplier has cautioned of a sophisticated scam which uses phishing to defraud customers.
Image: 123RF/Olivier Le Moal

A Cape Town-based medical device manufacturer has warned other medical suppliers and customers of tender fraudsters who are using Covid-19 restrictions and fears to double-cross unsuspecting customers and stealing more than R1m in the process.

This week Gabler Medical said it has become of the scammers' victims.

It said that the sophisticated fraudsters used the company's name to trick customers, who are made to believe that they are ordering products from the company.

MD Reiner Gabler said fraudsters have used fictitious website domains that resembled that of his company, and of the department of health, and were inviting companies to submit tenders. Fraudsters are targeting established companies that normally respond to legitimate health department tenders for medical devices, said Gabler.

He said the criminals operated by e-mailing a fraudulent invitation to tender, purporting to be from the health department.

“Gabler Medical is aware of an initial fake bid document for the supply of microscopes, and a second document for the supply of thermometers.

“The fraudulent multi-page request to tender documents is extremely convincing. It resembles official department of health stationery with a watermark, and a stamp stating that the document has been approved by supply chain management. It states that no briefing session will be held, but all queries can be mailed or phoned through. A contact name, email address and Pretoria phone number are supplied.”

When recipients follow up, the fraudster names Gabler Medical as a company that supplies the devices and provides a fake Gabler website with a phone number, company VAT number, address information, and contact numbers — all of which are incorrect.

The original fake website — which has since been closed down by the company — was  www.gablermedicals.com. But, it appears the fraudsters have reappeared as www.gablersmedical.com.

The correct site address is www.gablermedical.com.

Gabler said that the fraudsters used a similar trick with the health department’s website, using www.health-gov.co while the correct domain is www.health.gov.za.

“We were alerted to the scam by an established customer who was sent a quote by the fraudsters, and who realised it was not in fact a Gabler Medical document. In the first tender for microscopes, the fraudsters took numerous companies, who thought they were dealing with us, for R170,000 each. We estimate they stole well over R1m before we were able to shut them down,” Gabler said.

While police were initially reluctant to log the case as there was no loss to the company, Gabler said he had taken several steps to stop the scammers.

“I am aware of people who have been scammed and also some that contacted us and thereby avoided being scammed. I spoke to a few people myself and encouraged them to lay a fraud charge, but it seems our juristic system is not geared adequately for dealing efficiently and effectively with such fraudulent activities, which makes it open season for fraudsters,” said Gabler.

“If you are registered on the supplier databases and receive a request to tender or quote that seems to be from a government department, contact the department to confirm that the request is legitimate. Do not use the contact details on the tender document, which might be fraudulent.”

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