‘How I lost R90 000 to WhatsApp scamsters’ – husband shares what he did to try and recover his money

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Many South Africans  eager to make easy money fall victim to scammers.
Many South Africans eager to make easy money fall victim to scammers.
Peter Dazeley

When Blessing Mokoena was approached on a WhatsApp group by an investor who promised him high returns in a short period of time, he fell for the hoax and ended up R90 000 poorer.

It all started in November. Blessing joined a Whatsapp group for investors and they were given a Capitec bank account to invest their funds in. For the father and husband, this seemed legit.

But when the time came for their payouts, the Whatsapp group simply no longer existed.

When the Pretoria man and other victims approached the bank, they were told nothing can be done to reverse the funds. “We are close to giving up," Blessing tells Drum.

"Capitec says the account was frozen, and it was opened by a fraudulent ID, therefore they can not reach the owner of the account.” 

Scams are common and in many cases the bank is not held liable, something Blessing believes is wrong.

He is one of many South Africans who have been swindled of their hard-earned cash by online scamsters. A recent study by credit rating agency TransUnion shows that 37% of South African consumers were recently targeted by Covid-19 related digital fraud.

“The media is awash with stories about how not to get scammed and yet people are still falling for these traps. Part of the problem is that everyone thinks they’re too clever to get caught out until they are. The pandemic and its effects on people’s pockets have also made many especially vulnerable to these kinds of schemes,” said Head of Sanlam Business Development for Retail Credit, Ayanda Ndimande.

Read more | It can happen to anyone – here are 10 common real estate scams and ways to spot them

“Unfortunately in most cases, with this type of fraud, the client has to divulge their personal information to the scammers and, as a result, the bank may not feel that they can be held liable for the stolen funds,” explains Ayanda.

The first thing that one should do when they realise they have been scammed is to alert the bank and then open a case with the police.

“The best way to ask your bank for their assistance in retrieving the stolen funds and apprehending the scammers would be to report the case to the South African Police Service (SAPS) and ask that the bank cooperates with them to trace and apprehend the criminals and recover the stolen funds,” advises Ayanda.

"If you realise that you have been scammed, report the matter to the police immediately. It is important to always be vigilant and, by doing so, you can also contact the company the scammers impersonated to confirm if the offer is legitimate or indeed a scam."

Here's how to avoid falling victim to digital scammers

1. Beware of promises of high rates of return and/or quick profits

Con artists know what appeals to people. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. The higher the return, the higher the risk.

2. Talk to a third party

If you are interested in the investment, take the time to talk with a third party. Talk to your regular stockbroker, your attorney, your accountant or any other reputable consultant. 

3. Be wary of online scams 

Many scams are being promoted online now and via social media. Treat any investment opportunity you see advertised online with scepticism and do your research.

4. If you are shopping online, always place orders from a secure connection

When making online transactions, your computer or cellphone may not be protected from potentially malicious software. Therefore your financial information and passwords are at risk of being stolen (and everything else you store on your computer or do online).

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