Watch out for ‘friendly shop helper’

2015-05-26 06:00

The Wynberg police reported over 10 cases in which women have been conned into “buying clothes” at half price only to have their belongings stolen.

Over the last two years several women have been duped into leaving their belongings with strangers under false promises of purchasing items at several clothing stores at a discount price.

However, warrant officer Silvino Davids, spokesperson of the Wynberg police, says all the victims in these cases were left empty-handed.

Davids explains that a group of women have been targeting shoppers in a local mall in Wynberg.

He says all the victims usually have shopping bags filled with items they had purchased when approached by the suspects.

“Many of the victims were approached in one specific store in the mall and are casually told that they can buy clothes from the suspects at a discount price,” he says.

According to the detective who is investigating the cases the suspects somehow convince the victims that they are store employees and can get them “whatever they want for half the price”.

Davids says the victims are also told that the suspect is “not supposed to do this, but wants to help the shopper get a low price on the items, but no-one must know”.

“The suspect then tells the victim if they are interested to meet with them outside the mall where about three to four other interested buyers are waiting,” he says.

According to the victims the suspect then continues to explain how the process works and that they can only go back into the store with one interested buyer at a time.

“The suspect tells the woman that each person would need to leave all their belongings, which includes their handbag, cellphones, purses and even their shopping bags with the other interested buyers,” he says.

Davids says because the suspect takes one of her accomplices back to the store and the woman then returns with clothing “purchased from the store” it makes it believable.

“Also, the victim will feel that she can trust the suspect because all the woman will follow suit and leave their bags and return with clothing bags from the store.

“This, however, is only a way to make the victim trust that the suspect is the real deal,” he says.

What happens next, Davids says, is that the victim leaves all her belongings, goes back to the clothing store with the suspect and is then told to pick out what she wants. She is then told to go back outside the mall to where the other “interested buyers” are and wait there.

However, the victim realises as soon as she gets outside the mall to the “waiting area” that the other three or four interested buyers are missing – with her belongings.

“This is a well thought out scam and the victims are easily lured into purchasing items at a discount price, knowing that the suspect is not supposed to do it,” he says.

Davids urges shoppers to be careful and not fall for scams like this particular one.

“If anyone has any information on the suspects or has been approached in this manner please report it to the police,” he says

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