Woman warns of 'dead domestic worker' scam: ‘I can’t believe I was so stupid!’

By Jana van der Merwe
28 February 2017

A woman from Centurion, Gauteng, can only shake her head and smile at the fact that she fell for it when someone convinced her that her beloved domestic helper had died in a car crash.

The victim, who asked that we not use her real name, says a man called her posing as her domestic helper’s brother. He told her about the accident and asked that she pay R3 000 into a bank account to pay for removing the car wreck from the accident scene.

“He sounded so resigned and tired. There was no doubt in my mind that he was telling the truth,” Janet Conradie* (65) from Lyttelton told YOU.

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The incident took place two Saturdays ago at just before 7 am. “The man said his name is Simon, and that he’s the brother of our domestic helper, Maria Tohlang* (50). I know that Maria has a brother called Simon. He also phoned our home’s landline.”

The man said Maria was on her way to Marble Hall in Mpumalanga with two other women when the car overturned. He said all three women died on impact.

“I was so terribly shocked. Maria has been working for me and my husband for 10 years. She’s almost like a child to us.”

The man initially said she must pay the money into an FNB account electronically, but she said she struggles with internet transactions. That’s when he suggested she send it via Shoprite’s cash-sending service, by which money can be collected in store. A code is sent to the recipient’s cellphone with which they can collect the cash from any Shoprite in the country.

Read more: Children spend hours alone with mom’s corpse after she’s ‘killed by domestic worker’

“I said Shoprite only opens at 9 am, but he said no, they open at 7 am. And when I got there, they were indeed open,” Janet says.

The man even phoned her from his cellphone after she’d paid the money to thank her, and promised to pay the money back as soon as Maria’s funeral policy paid out. He mentioned that his cellphone’s battery was nearly dead after a long night on the accident scene.

But it wasn’t long before Janet found out she’d been swindled. “I went to my neighbour to tell her about what happened, when I heard Maria’s voice behind me. I grabbed her and cried on her shoulder – I was so relieved when I saw she was still alive!

“I’d lose that money again just to have her back, but I can’t believe I was so stupid. Why hadn’t I just phoned her cellphone? I just assumed that her brother now had her phone.”

Janet says Maria is just as upset about the incident. Janet decided to take the matter further, but at first police wouldn’t help her because she didn’t know the address of the Shoprite where the money was withdrawn. She managed to find the information from the Shoprite in Lyttelton’s system, as well as the name of the woman who withdrew the cash.

“But police told me these people [swindlers] just take anyone from the street to withdraw the cash on their behalf and then just pay them for doing it. I know I’ll probably never get the money back, but I think it’s necessary to warn others…”

Captain Dave Miller, the Lyttelton police station’s spokesman, couldn’t be reached for commentary but did confirm the incident to the community newspaper Centurion Rekord. He advises people have the contact details of employees’ families in order to verify the information.

*Names have been changed

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