Scam alert issued by university

The University of Otago has warned suppliers about a scam that swindled a Canterbury business out of more than $32,000.

Jackie and Murray Marquet and their business Canterbury Power Solar (CPS) were swindled out of the money after receiving an email in January purporting to be associated with Otago University.

The email, signed with the name of a legitimate university employee in the procurement department, asked for a quote for 100 solar panels.

Murray replied to the emails, which had the addresses and, and sent a quote for the panels on February 1.

On February 7 the fraudsters replied, asking to proceed with the purchase.

A fake approved purchase order, featuring an Otago University crest, followed on February 9.

On February 20, CPS emailed a tax invoice to the fraudsters asking for payment of $32,890, which they never received.

The panels were collected from CPS' Australian supplier, Visa Global Logistics, on March 13, before payment was made, and were to be shipped to Peterborough in the UK, according to DHL shipment records.

The university warned suppliers around New Zealand about the ''sophisticated scam'' in a press statement in January.

The university said it warned all its suppliers about the scam after it received hundreds of clarification calls from suppliers in past days.

Procurement manager Stephen Hall said the scam involved suppliers receiving fictitious quote requests and in some cases fictitious purchase orders made to look like official purchase orders.

The scam worked on the basis the scammers sent orders to a supplier requesting goods be sent to a delivery address.

If the supplier sent the goods, they never received payments.

Mrs Marquet eventually googled the email addresses and found the warning on the university's website about the threat of potential scams.

The university had issued an alert last month warning people of a fraud that targeted existing and potential suppliers of goods to the university.

Mrs Marquet contacted police on May 3.

''We're just a small firm, a family-based firm ... I feel like an idiot.

''You just feel gullible more than anything else, because it did come across as being genuine, especially the purchase order,'' she said.

She said CPS, which had never previously been targeted by a scam, had completed past deals with schools and university students.

Detective Sergeant Michael Cartwright, of the financial crime unit, said police were doing what they could to locate the panels, find out where they were delivered, and who was behind the scam.

Police issued a warning this month about forged district health board invoices being used to swindle goods from New Zealand businesses.

''There are a number of businesses who have received false purchase orders but luckily we have intercepted them before they were shipped offshore.

''CPS were the first to lose anything that we know of.''

The panels have yet to be located. CPS has made an insurance claim for its losses. 

-Additional reporting by Sam Hurley of NZME

Add a Comment







Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter