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Ruth Cummings Gombe
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It Happened To Me Too!

07 December 2012, 08:43

I am one of those people who is always alert and aware of potential scams and scammers.  I have heard how some operate, the tricks they use, lies they tell and even how they charm their way into their victims pockets, homes, lives, bank accounts, etc.

Earlier this week, I had a visit at my office from a couple that has been here before, and they caught me on a rare off-guard moment.  I was busy preparing for training the next day, had so many things to get through and was working from Reception to save me from having to run from my office to reception, for the printer, phone, etc.  They enquired about our workshops, but the striking thing about this couple is that they reeked of alcohol, as they did on the other two visits earlier in the year.  The guy was rather persistant in wanting to see the training room his wifew would be trained in, which I refused to do as I did not like his manner.  His wife was quiet, hardly speaking and seemed rather shy.  I was rather irritated with his manner but remained polite, so I gave them the information they needed and hinted at them leaving.  He wanted to book his wife for a course on Monday next, but since I did not have a class in the subject she wanted, I asked them to leave her contact details and I would call them with a date.

They produced a business card with a name, company and landline number handwritten on the back.  I knew it was not her real name or number, but the guy insisted that she would be at that number the next day.  I humoured him and wrote it down, and he then asked her to give me her cell number, which she did but seemed a bit confused about the number.  Again, I wrote it down to humour them, had a funny feeling about them but was happy to see them leave.

As they reached the door, they spoke in a language I could not identify (not one of our local languages), then turned and asked me for water.  That's the point I should have known they were up to no good, but I was highly irritated and was not thinking straight.  I got them water while they stood in the doorway to the kitchen where I could see them, and he was talking constantly and loudly.  He asked for another glass, forced his 'wife' to drink it, and still asked for a third glass of water which he drank.  Then they left in a rush, mumbling about their car being parked illegally on the road as it was giving them problems so they could not park in the yard.

It was only a couple of hours later that I noticed that my backpack was missing.  I searched high and low but it was nowhere to be found, and then it hit me that I had been robbed!  Fortunately I still had my cellphone and car keys and my backpack mainly had training materials, personal effects such as perfume, lip gloss, etc.  My main irritation was in the fact that my credit cards, ID, drivers license and other such cards were in that bag, and I was not looking forward to having to cancel cards and apply for new documents.

I was fortunate in that it could have been far, far worse but it was not.  I pieced the puzzle together and realised that on their previous visits, they pretended to enquire but were assessing the office, security and looking for something to steal.  Previously there were no handbags or other items visible, but this time they found something, albeit really not worth too much.  I called the number they had given me as I suspected that they were targeting whatever company that was too.  I was right, they had applied the same modus operandi there but had promised to come back later.  The other thing that struck me is that this company whose number they were using is miles away from my office, out in the far East Rand!  They are getting around and targeting offices far and wide, so I would encourage you to please be on the lookout for them.

They do not just operate as a couple, on their other visit they were with another lady, and it would appear that while they distracted me with the water, their accomplice came in and nipped my backpack.  The lady at the other company also said they had another guy who stayed in the car and he was the driver on that day.  They were clearly targeting the other company too, but since I alerted them, the scammer scum will not be getting away with anything from there.

Now I know that many would be quick to say "How could you have been so dumb?" and while I tend to agree with you, I must also warn you that these types of scammers and thieves will only hit you when they can see you are not on full alert.  They look for that opportunity, that moment when you are otherwise occupied or when you have let your guard down.  And if they can't get that opportunity, they work their magic to earn your trust and get you to let your guard down. 

So as we go on holiday, please always keep your guard up, just be on the lookout at all times for all kinds of criminals.  They have spent most of the year planning on how to relieve you of your earnings, property, etc and believe me, they have scripted their routines so that you will not suspect them.  There are so many scams out there that it is difficult to keep up with each one, but just do your best to be vigilant all the time.  Sometimes the scammer scum also use violence to get what they want, so please be safe.

Most of all, I wish you all happy, safe holidays! :-)

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