Hitchin school falls victim to £240,000 fraud
PUBLISHED: 10:35 03 December 2015 | UPDATED: 10:42 03 December 2015
A Hitchin school has fallen victim to a classic bank fraud and lost nearly £250,000 to conmen.
Independent prep school Kingshott fell prey to fraudsters pretending to represent Hitchin building company Ashe Construction, which has been working at the Stevenage Road school in recent months.
The school cut the ribbon on its new Robinson building last month – the project has provided new classrooms, purpose-built music, art, food technology and science rooms, as well as changing rooms and a performing arts studio.
But the tricksters mocked up a fake letterhead and got in touch with the school to ‘inform them of a change in banking details’.
The school processed the false information and sent a payment of £240,000.
A spokesman confirmed this week: “We have been the victim of bank mandate fraud to the sum of £240,000.
“The school has engaged with the police Action Fraud UK centre which is investigating.
“The loss will have no detrimental effect on the school, staff or the children – or on any future planned developments.”
Kingshott chair of governors Gavin Hill told parents in a letter that it had been a ‘most unfortunate’ incident and added: “Clients of our contractor have been the target of a bank mandate fraud. Kingshott has sadly been a victim of this crime.
“We are looking at what options exist to attempt a recovery. At present, though, we are assuming that the project will bear the cost which stands at £240,000.”
Ashe director Andy Morris said: “This fraud is a tragic event for such a good school with who we have such a great relationship, and we are hugely sympathetic.
“We will work closely with them and the police in offering any help we can in tracing the perpetrators.
“We have rigorous processes in place to combat this type of crime.
“Our bank has told us that unfortunately these type of crimes are becoming more and prevalent at SMEs and schools – we sent a letter to all our clients before this crime took place asking them to be aware of such types of fraud.
“As the school stated, this unfortunate act has absolutely nothing to do with Ashe Construction.”
Kingshott – founded in 1931 as a small boarding school for boys – has expanded steadily over the years and now caters for boys and girls aged three to 13.
Kingshott parent Rachel Campbell said: “Kingshott is a brilliant school, and we, as parents, are convinced this issue will not have a detrimental effect on the pupils in any way.”