The phones ran hot last week following ARN's revelation that legitimate sales tax exemption numbers were being fraudulently used by cash traders to purchase computer hardware from suppliers (ARN March 17, page 1).
The $41,000 fraud exposed last week is just the tip of the iceberg according to several resellers who contacted ARN with further information.
"Forty grand is nothing," said one caller who claimed to have been in the distribution business for seven years.
"I believe similar scams to the one you exposed happen 100 times a day in Sydney and Melbourne. There are literally hundreds of people buying and selling goods ex-tax with all the transactions involving cash or bank transfer," he said.
The caller said big computer wholesalers are "sales motivated organisations" and that their sales people are usually keen to accept these orders to get their numbers up.
The sales managers at these big companies can't closely scrutinise every order from 20 or 30 sales people because they are getting hundreds a day, the caller suggested.
"I would say in some cases it is suspect individuals conspiring with buyers while in others it is sure to be an organised collaboration.
"As long as they have some paperwork, they are happy because they know there is very little chance of being audited. I don't know why the ATO is not doing more. Perhaps they are just waiting for a GST," he said.
Another response to the story revealed a scam that involved not just sales tax evasion but straight-out theft. The thieves nearly got a result from the scam but for an alert courier company, as was the case in last week's story.
The couriers were called up on a Friday afternoon and asked to arrange five trucks to be sent to various computer distributors and dealers, including some of the biggest names in the business. Each truck was to pick up between $20,000 and $40,000 worth of goods and all deliveries were destined for the same western Sydney address.
As well as using counterfeit order forms with stolen sales tax numbers and replicated signatures, the buyers had forged bank deposit slips and attempted to convince the suppliers that funds had been transferred to their nominated bank account.
Forged deposit slips
Four of the suppliers wouldn't release goods until their banks confirmed receipt of payment but the fifth took the faxed bank deposit on face value and released 30 cartons worth over $30,000 in good faith. Lucky for this large distributor, someone at the courier company smelt a rat when four trucks were left sitting around waiting for payment confirmation that never came.
He stopped the delivery of the truck and contacted the police with details of the scam. He was told they were "too busy" to respond, he said. According to the source, the delivery address turned out to be a day-rate warehouse and he believes the attempted fraud was never fully investigated by police.
Another caller said most distributors would happily do cash business by bank transfer and that fraudulent use of stolen tax files numbers was rampant.