Scam on beloved teacher

2016-10-19 11:20
Barbie Burger (80) with her neighbour, Susan Keartland (L) photographed last year after her former pupils from Linpark High School raised money to pay for her exorbitant electricity bill.

Barbie Burger (80) with her neighbour, Susan Keartland (L) photographed last year after her former pupils from Linpark High School raised money to pay for her exorbitant electricity bill. (File )

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Beloved former Linpark High School Afrikaans teacher Barbie Burger has been scammed in an incident with echoes of the operations of the infamous “Hospital Hustler”.

Burger (80), who became known for the kindness of her former pupils who helped pay an extraordinarily high electricity bill in November last year, fell victim to a scamster who was pretending to sell pain relief patches on Monday.

Although the police are yet to confirm a link, the scamster fits the description of a woman dubbed the “Hospital Hustler”, who stole various items from patients at local hospitals recently.

Burger said a “tall, very dark-skinned, extremely thin” Indian woman visited her Prestbury home this week and stole her jewellery, cellphone, handbag, glasses and blankets.

The “Hospital Hustler” was friendly with her victims, pretended to know them and related familiar stories to them. Similarly, this scamster spoke to Burger about her shoulder injury “as if she knew me”.

Burger, who suffers from a severe shoulder injury, said she allowed the woman into her home after being told that a neighbour had referred her to assist with her shoulder pain.

“First she told me she needed to use the bathroom as she had been travelling all day. She spent a long time in the bathroom,” Burger said.

She said the woman then asked her to fetch a dish of warm water and then sent her to fetch a towel and then a bar of soap.

“She made me go up and down to fetch things, all while she was probably stealing my things,” Burger said.

The woman arrived at her home at around 4.40 pm on Monday afternoon and spent more than two hours in Burger’s home.

“She said she had these patches that would be placed on my back, but the patches needed gold to activate the medicine,” she said.

Burger said she produced her only gold necklace, which she bought in the early 1960s with her first salary as a teacher, to use with the “treatment”.

“It’s a beautiful necklace with black Onyx stones on it. I gave the necklace to her and then she told me to lie on the bed on my tummy and face the wall,” she said.

The woman pulled the blanket off her and placed it on the chair next to the bed.

“She put these patches on my back near my spine and took the necklace and rubbed it on the patches. Then she told me I had to wait for the patches to work and I must lie still and face the wall,” she said.

The patches had a sticky side to them and were stuck onto Burger’s back. Later it was discovered the “pain relief patches” were in fact just cheap rubber stoppers sold at hardware stores.

The woman later told Burger she had a shoulder brace that would help her and would be given to her at no extra charge.

“She said she was going to her car to fetch the brace while I lay on the bed.”

After half-an-hour, Burger eventually realised the woman had vanished and her blankets and other belongings were missing. “After walking around the house, I noticed my bathroom cupboards were left open and my necklace was missing,” she said.

Traumatised by the incident, Burger said she immediately locked her home and called her neighbour to say she had been scammed.

“When I went to call my neighbour, I noticed my cellphone was missing, along with my handbag and reading glasses,” she said, adding that the woman spoke “fast and a lot”.

“My hearing is hopeless so she probably told me her name, but I didn’t hear. She spoke so much and so fast, like she just knew how to confuse me,” she said.

Police spokesperson Sergeant Mtokozisi Ngobese said police are investigating a case of theft.

He advised people not to entertain strangers who come knocking on their doors. “There are people out there who are targeting the vulnerable, especially the elderly. We are warning people not to open their homes to people they do not know.”

Ngobese said police would investigate and look at the merits of the case should it fit the profile of other scams.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  scams

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