Recently, we have seen a substantial increase in fraudulent schemes aimed at harming GTPAC clients and other government contractors in Georgia and around the nation. Specifically, we’ve seen a large increase in incidents, where criminals impersonate government procurement officials and send out fake Request for Quotes (“RFQ”) and fake purchase orders in order to acquire equipment and other goods that they then sell on the black market.
Often, the fake RFQs / purchase orders at issue use the name of legitimate government officials but include phone and fax numbers that are associated with the fraudsters. These fraud schemes have become more sophisticated lately, because the fraudsters also use hacked government accounts and spoofed U.S. government agency domain names in order to trick our clients into thinking the RFQ or Purchase Order is from a legitimate government source.
Fraudsters also use domain names they purchase, which are similar to real government domain names, but which are controlled by the fraudsters (such as rrb-gov.us). While the email header may display a legitimate government email address (.gov address), the Reply-To header is often slightly different, or from a non-government email address. Sometimes the fraudsters avoid email and insist on communicating by fax.
Vendors who respond to these fraudulent RFQs/Purchase Orders are instructed to ship products to addresses that are chosen by the fraudsters, frequently abandoned commercial properties. When the fraudsters receive the shipment, the ringleader decides whether to sell the equipment in the United States or ship it to Nigeria for resale.
The equipment enters the black market and the government vendor never receives payment for the goods. Please review this alert that has been recently issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security: https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/pr/2019/oigpr-071619-fraud-alert-transnational-fraud-ring-targets-us-government-procurement-offices-and-vendors.pdf
If you receive an RFQ or purchase order for equipment that appears to come from the U.S. Government, take the following precautions:
- Do as much due diligence as you can to ensure that the RFQ or purchase order is from a legitimate government source;
- Independently obtain the phone number for the listed procurement official and call them to confirm the RFQ is legitimate before responding to any RFQs received by fax;
- Respond to RFQs received by email only when the sender’s domain and the Reply To header end in “.gov”;
- Independently verify that the shipping address is a legitimate government address or facility before shipping equipment;
- Beware of typographical errors, unusual language, and distorted U.S. government seals and other graphics;
- Be suspicious of any purported procurement officials who refuse to communicate by email;
- Clearly indicate on the outside of all boxes that the contents are the property of the United States Government (in at least one case, a buyer refused to purchase the stolen goods from the fraudster when he saw “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” on the boxes); and
- Take any and all other precautions necessary to ensure you are dealing with a legitimate government customer;
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of this fraud scheme is urged to call the DHS OIG Hotline (1-800-323-8603) or file a complaint online via the DHS OIG website, www.oig.dhs.gov