Hold on to Christmas spirit, cash

2019-12-10 06:00
Be aware of scammers trying to distract you at ATMs.

Be aware of scammers trying to distract you at ATMs.

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As Christmas decorations go up, people’s defences start to go down. Capt Silvino Davids of Wynberg police station, however, warns that reports of people being mugged and robbed on streets usually increase this time of year.

Having just received their bonuses or end-of-year pay, hundreds of people are flocking to malls and shops in the Main Road. Davids says quite a few scams are going around and urges residents to stay vigilant.

“Cases of theft at ATMs have already been reported. Three to four people will crowd you at an ATM. The one will distract you by asking you a question while the others press the buttons, swipe your card or get your pin.”

Davids urges people to avoid drawing money from ATMs located on the street. Rather use those inside a mall or at locations where security staff are present. And don’t allow people to stand too close to you when you are using the ATM. Also, try not to use it when you are alone and be on the lookout for people lurking around. If you see anyone suspicious, report it to security or the police.

He says they have also had reports of residents being robbed by people pretending to be police officers.

“They drop a roll of money on the ground and then wait for someone to pick it up. As soon as someone does, they approach, flashing fake police ID cards,” explains Davids.

He says they then claim the money is stolen and part of an ongoing investigation. Next, they demand you hand over your handbag, wallet and cellphone, saying they have to confiscate the items to check you don’t have any other stolen items or money in your possession.”

Targets were told to meet them at the station later. In other instances, they were told to drive with “the officers” to the police station, only to be dropped off a block or two down the road.

Davids says this is not how real police officers operate. If the situation doesn’t seem right, don’t hand over your belongings and don’t agree to drive in their vehicle. Rather say you will meet them at the police station and go straight there.

He says the perpetrators use unmarked vehicles. “If something like this does happen to you, try to get a good description of the suspects and their vehicle’s licence plate number.”

Street robberies and thefts out of cars also tend to occur more often this time of year. “Street robberies, especially, are a problem in Wynberg’s subways and in and around the Wynberg Public Transport Interchange,” Davids says.

He says people should be proactive and, where possible, lock their belongings away.

“Walking alone in isolated areas, displaying cash or using your cellphone in public – all these actions make you a target.”

He says perpetrators either do a quick grab or they distract you – asking you for a cigarette or money – and then pull out a knife and rob you.

“When they try to get your attention, just ignore them and carry on walking. Don’t stop and allow three of four of them to surround you,” he says.

Residents who see anything suspicious are asked to report it to the nearest security or authority.

V Call the Wynberg police station on 021 799 1300.

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