Pensioners scammed

2015-07-22 10:41

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Pietermaritzburg - With tears in his eyes, an elderly pensioner warned Pietermaritzburg’s retirees of an electricity scam after he and his wife were swindled out of thousands of rands.

Feeling too embarrassed to allow The Witness to name him, the 80-year-old told The Witness how he and his wife were scammed by professional con-artists who told them they were from the Msunduzi Municipality, offering a new electricity meter to pensioners.

Police sources said the con-artists have been working in the Montrose and Chase Valley areas, targeting pensioners specifically. This is the third case reported at the Townhill police station to date.

According to the man, he was with his wife at their Chase Valley home when they received a call from a man claiming to be from the municipality.

“Don’t you feel like it is too difficult to pay for electricity? If you are accepted into our new system you will pay just R600. We are trying to help the pensioners,” said the man over the telephone, who introduced himself as Anton Morelia — found later to be a fake name.

Excited about the prospect of saving money, the pensioner agreed and another man came over to his home almost immediately after he put the phone down. “What a gentleman he was. He was so kind and very professional. He was the type of man who commanded respect,” said the pensioner, describing the man who appeared at his door.

Explaining that the municipality was testing a new system that would average pensioners’ bills to only R600, the man, who introduced himself as Andrew Lewis, asked to see the couple’s current electricity meter.

He then told the couple that their current meter was too old for them to qualify but they could buy a new one for R6 000. Before they agreed, the man explained the “new system” in detail, convincing the couple of its authenticity. “We trusted him because of his attitude,” the pensioner said.

The couple then signed stop-orders and provided personal information like ID numbers and bank details — and even inserted their pin number on a hand-held card machine to “confirm” their first monthly payment.

The man then persisted asking for R6 000 in cash for a new, improved meter. The couple managed to get together R4 500 and signed a cash cheque for the remainder.

While “Lewis” was still in their home, their new electricity meter was delivered in a box by another man. The meter was later found to be just a metal box with a cord, which the pensioner described as a “useless household appliance”.

Thanking the couple for their assistance, the pensioner said, the man even took a picture of them holding the box and smiling, for “promotional purposes”. He left thereafter.

“It was only when we walked back into the house after walking him out that it hit us and we realised what had happened,” the pensioner said.

The couple got hold of their daughter, who started calling the banks to stop any transactions from the accounts — but it was too late. “He had emptied every cent,” the pensioner said.

The couple was scammed for almost R20 000.

“I have learnt never to discuss anything with anyone over the phone and no stranger will ever come through my gate. I want to warn others to be aware of this scam,” the pensioner said.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda was shocked to learn of the scam.

Madonda said the municipality is not rolling out any new systems and even if they were, it would be communicated via proper channels. “We are sorry for what happened to the couple. We warn others to be aware of these scams and contact the municipality should they have questions on policies or to report scammers,” Madonda said.

Police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese said the community should not entertain strangers unless they “properly” verify their identity.

“If you are not sure who someone is, do not let them into your property,” Ngobese said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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