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Manfred Phesto
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Cape Town "Emergency" Street Numbers Scam

15 April 2014, 10:53
Yesterday I had an encounter with a con-artist. I have posted this story for the simple reason that this scam has not (as far as I can tell) been documented in this country before. When I searched for information on it, I found examples from other countries, but none from South Africa. 

The scam works as follows: he rings your doorbell and claims to be a representative of a company performing the admirable and useful service of re-painting the so-called "emergency numbers" on the pavement outside your property. This is, in fact, on council property - and the property owner/occupant has no responsibility for its maintenance. 

For this service, he charges R150 - which is in and of itself ridiculous given the amount of time and paint required. He claimed the paint was "special water-resistant paint".

In any event, he painted several numbers along my street and fleeced the residents without a problem - until he got to me.

He also painted the number outside my property, and when he rang the bell to claim his fee, I asked him who he worked for. He could not / would not tell me. I asked him his name, which he likewise refused to provide. I asked him for any form of identification whatsoever. He had none.

The one and only piece of evidence he was able to provide was a laminated photo of a street number he had apparently restored. He could provide me with nothing else, other than the fact that he had performed this service for several of my neighbours and also the former occupants of my home. 

Naturally, this aroused my suspicions - and a certain, shall we say, righteous fury. I rushed out with a trusted associate of mine and took his photo and one of his number plate. I then called the police - who responded promptly. Strangely enough, the man stuck around - which fact I presume was due to two key factors. Firstly, he was happily fleecing the whole street with not the slightest opposition, and secondly, although his actions were decidedly sketchy, there was nothing absolutely illegal about them (aside, perhaps, from vanadalizing city property).

He claimed to have permission from council to provide the service - but could provide no evidence to support this claim. I asked him - in front of the officers - what his name was (he mumbled something which sounded like "Ken" or "Kev"), and the name of his firm. I asked him if he was registered for VAT. I asked him to to provide me with the information anybody can reasonably expect when paying for a service rendered. I asked him for an invoice. He could provide me with none of these things, and claimed to have been robbed when asked for I.D. by the cops. 

I agreed to abide by the judgement of the officers present, and they told me that I was under no obligation to pay this mysterious person until he could provide me with the relevant documentation. He said he would be back today with these, but (not surprisingly) he has not returned.  

I have attached (separately - come on News24!) his photo, and welcome any and all comments, additional information, and encourage any journalist who reads this to get council's take on the matter. 
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