Tiny council apologises to taxpayers for losing £9,000 to online scam

Tiny council apologises to taxpayers for losing £9,000 – a tenth of its budget – to crudely simple online scam

  • Officials at Harlech Community Council made a payment to a scam artist 
  •  The council made a £9,000 advance payment to Oluwafeni Odunga 

A red-faced council has apologised after it was conned out of £9,000 after falling for an online scam.

Officials at Harlech Community Council in North Wales made a ‘advance payment’ to a man named Oluwafeni Odunuga for ‘consultative work’.

But the tiny council later realised it had been conned – and lost around 10 per cent of its annual budget in the scam.

The council promised its 1,265 residents it has since ‘tightened procedures’ nine months after losing the money.

Officials were alerted to the fraud when HSBC told them they had been victim to an ‘authorised push payment’ scam.

Officials at Harlech Community Council in North Wales made a ‘advance payment’ to a man named Oluwafeni Odunuga for ‘consultative work’ before realising they had been scammed

Minutes from a council meeting held in January said Mr Odunuga claimed an advance payment was required before he could carry out his work.

It said: ‘The treasurer reported that unfortunately the council had been scammed out of £9,000 by a person called Oluwafeni Odunuga – stating that he was going to carry out consultative work for the council and an advance payment would be required.

‘The treasurer reported further that she had received a letter from HSBC bank stating that it looks like the council has been a victim of an ‘authorised push payment’ scam and they were now looking into this and contacting the fraudster’s bank.’

The council has since apologised to the town’s residents in a statement.

It said: On behalf of Harlech Community Council we wish to take the opportunity to apologise to the residents of Harlech regarding the loss of the £9,000 rate payers money as a result of a scam that happened last December.

‘Although an apology was given at the council meeting (September 4), where members of the public were in attendance, the community council would now like to extend this apology to those residents of Harlech that were not present at the meeting.

‘Following this meeting of the Harlech Community Council it was decided, although the council’s financial procedures have been tightened in accordance with the Internal Auditor’s report, to form a sub committee to look into the way forward the council can work with regards to financial matters.’

According to the HSBC website, an authorised push payment scam is the type ‘in which a criminal tricks people into transferring money to them’.

It said: ‘It differs from other types of fraud, where criminals get access to accounts and steal money without the account holder’s knowledge.’

The council reported in March that it spent about £99,000 in 2022-23 which included costs such as £2,000 for Christmas lights, £2,500 for footpath grass cutting and £400 for salt bins.

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