Guest Column

I was scammed

2016-09-30 09:58

Susan Erasmus

On Monday afternoon I get an SMS to tell me very sternly that unless I pay a traffic fine of R500 very sharply, I have to appear in court.

I get at least one traffic fine per year – usually for driving at 70km/h in a 60km zone in the pulsing metropolis of Riversdale. I usually just sigh deeply, think longingly of the half a dozen good bottles of red wine I could have bought with the money, resolve not to do it again, and then pay up. And the following year I go through all of this once more.

Wrong number?

I look at the SMS I received, and assume it was sent to the wrong person, because this is the first I hear of it. I am on the point of deleting it, when the paranoid part of me makes me look at the website with the actual pic of the handwritten fine. I would show you a copy, but shortly this will be police evidence, so you will just have to contain your curiosity.

I do not recognise the registration number and I do not own a White Golf and I don’t think I have ever been on the corner of Halt and Voortrekker Roads, where the fine was issued. The fine is for not displaying a license or a roadworthy disc.  So, not my problem. Or is it?

Something makes me phone the traffic department. You know the drill (For water-related faults, dial 3 etc. etc.). Eventually I get through and the fourth person I speak to checks up on the reference number of the fine, and the car registration.


This car I have never heard of is registered in my name – certified copy of ID, right cellphone number, the lot. There’s a white Golf out there pretending to be mine.

The missing link

The sixth person I speak to is on the ball, and checks the history of the registration number. Another surprise. This used to be the registration number of the white Tucson I bought secondhand in December. But how has this car morphed into a Golf?

It hasn’t. Someone who had access to all my details, and who knew the old registration number of the car I am driving, has fraudulently registered another car in my name.

Now why would someone do this? Only one of two reasons: the car is stolen, or they want it to be untraceable back to its real owner so that it can be used in bank robberies/home invasions/hijackings.

The field of suspects is narrow: there are only four possible culprits I can think of who had access to the old number plate and the new ownership information. Someone at the garage (there must be about 10 employees there), the person they pay to go and stand in the queue at the traffic department to license vehicles, someone in the traffic department, or maybe someone at the place where the number plate was issued.

The salesman swears high and low the leak did not come from them. I don’t know who the other three individuals are.

Point is, there is a car out there registered in my name, and I can be held responsible for what the ‘owner’ does. Or has done. This is scary.

Then the full potential horror hits me: if someone has had enough of my details (and I mean everything) to register a car in my name, they have all the info to open endless shop accounts. So next I do a credit check. Clean, thank goodness. Then my accountant mentions that when someone steals your ID, it is often to register fake companies. I might have a business empire out there of which I am unaware. Another check. Also clean for the moment, but watch this space.

So what now?

I have e-mailed the traffic department. Automated response – turnaround time of 3 – 6 weeks. That is really comforting. Wars have been started in less time than that.

This weekend I shall be laying a charge at the police station. I need that case number and I need it quickly. Who knows whether ‘my’ car will be the getaway car in a bank robbery next week? I need to get that car off my name and off the road. So I shall also be queueing at the traffic department.

A word to those who know me – if I don’t call anyone, or post anything on Facebook for two weeks, I might be in Pollsmoor. Come and look for me.

A friend suggested I should hang around in Goodwood near where the car was fined, to see if I can spot it – and steal it. Seeing as it is already registered in my name, it should be easy to sell on Gumtree. Not sure if he was serious, but hey, just think how many good bottles of red wine I can buy with that money?

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