While the festive season may be the time to be jolly and merry it also comes with a lot of negatives, such as the increased number of road accidents as well as higher crime levels.
During this season, criminals are hard at work and one way they operate is through various types of scams where they aim to trick people out of their hard-earned money and belongings.
DRUM spoke to four people who fell victim to scammers. These are their stories.
1. False property purchase scam
Londani Tambani (28)
“I was looking for a new place to move into and I decided to search on Property24. It was a rushed search but I found a one-bedroom apartment located in Centurion. I contacted the agent listed on the site and he asked me to view the place, but I was very busy that week so I couldn’t go. He then said he’d send me the lease agreement since I was sure I wanted the place. He sent it through and we’d communicate via emails and on the phone.
“I sent back the lease form and all the accompanying documents and then he asked me to send the rent money as well as the deposit so I could occupy the place immediately since I was in a hurry to move in. I deposited the money, a total of R11 000, which included the rent and the deposit. When I was ready to move in, he said we should meet at the address in the morning. Upon my arrival, I tried to call him but his phone was off. His phone is still off till this day. The security guards at the address told me that there are a lot of people who come to the place looking for this person and he’s nowhere to be found.
“That’s when I realised I’d been scanned and I decided to open a case at the police station. But the police have no leads and the case is very quiet now. I’ve contacted the fraud department in an attempt to get my money.”
2. False car purchase scam
Zama Bhulose* (32)
“I was looking for a car and wanted to buy it cash. I searched on the internet because there were no auctions at the time and I couldn’t find a dealership that could sell to me for cash. So I found a dealership located in Heidelberg. I contacted the dealership via email and they responded by saying they’d get back to me. They had a company email address, company website, company banking details and everything so I was convinced that it was a legit dealership.
“When they didn’t get back to me, I gave them a call and told them what type of car I was looking for and what my budget was. The person on the phone told me they didn’t have the car in stock but would check if they had it at their other branch. I waited for about a day or so and then they got back to me saying they had the car. They sent me pictures of the car as well as videos to confirm the car was there and in all of those pictures, the car was at a dealership. They then told me I needed to secure the car since they worked very fast and since people bought on the spot because their cars were cheaper than other places. They told me I needed to send an amount of R5 000 to show I was serious. The car was going to cost me a total of R45 000. I sent them the R5 000 because I didn’t want to lose the car. I let them know I’d be coming to take the car and pay the rest of the amount on Saturday, this was a Monday afternoon. They agreed.
“A few days passed and then early on Friday morning they gave me a call to tell me that someone was at the dealership and the person saw the car and wanted it. They even said the person wanted to pay a little more than what I was going to pay. They asked me what they should do and I reminded them that we had an agreement and they told me that they wanted to sell the car. They said they’d send my money back unless I paid the whole amount immediately. I refused and told them I couldn’t pay for a car I hadn’t seen and that I’d be coming the next morning. The guy on the phone then said he was going to sell the car and when I tried to convince him not to, he said I should speak to his manager maybe he could help. When the manger spoke to me, he was slightly aggressive and spoke really fast. He was telling me how they’re running a business and that it’s either I paid the full amount or lost the car. Because I was very eager and excited since I’d seen the pictures, I went to the bank and made a transfer of the remaining R40 000.
“I called them and let them know I was coming the next day. They assured me they could keep the car for me now since I had secured it. The next day I asked a friend of mine to accompany me from Johannesburg to Heidelberg and we decided to take a taxi. I was still in communication with the people from the dealership and they were even giving me directions on what taxi to take and where to get off. The taxi driver then tells told us there’s no such street but said he knew a similar street name. He dropped us off there and we walked up and down that street searching for the dealership. There was no dealership at all on that street. We then walked to the Shell garage nearby to ask for directions and when we explained what place we were looking for, the attendants told us we had been scammed and that we weren’t the first ones to come with this story. When I tried to call the dealership, they didn’t pick up or they’d hang up if they realised it was me. I called with my friend’s phone and pretended to be someone else looking for a car and they’d answer and offer cars. That’s when I realised I’d been scammed. I went to open a case and I’m still waiting for feedback from the detective. When I went on the website a week later, they had changed the name of the dealership to something else but had the same landline number.”
3. ATM scam
Emily Magadla (55)
“My card was taken at an ATM and within minutes several transactions were made using it. I had been waiting in a short queue at the ATM at a shopping complex. There was only one gentleman using the ATM and he was on the phone. When he finished I went to the ATM and entered my card then proceeded to enter my PIN. Just when I was about to enter the amount I wanted, this guy appeared out of nowhere and told me this ATM only had a cardless option, and as he was saying this he was pressing buttons on the ATM. Everything was happening way too quickly and I don’t know what was going on with me. In the moment, it felt like I had blacked out because I just froze and did nothing while this man was pressing buttons on the machine. Then he stretched his hand towards the slot where you enter your bank card and told me I wasn’t supposed to enter my card.
“He then left and I was still not myself. I panicked when I realised what had happened and started to press cancel on the machine but nothing happened. I was too scared to leave the ATM because I still thought my bank card was inside the machine. I then took my cellphone out of my bag and realised it was off due to a low battery. Fortunately, I had left my eldest daughter in the car and she came to check on me when she saw I was taking too long. I told her what happened and she called Absa and attempted to stop my card. When we called, they told me two transactions had already gone off. They first withdrew R900 and then another R1 100. I stopped the card and then went to the police station to open a case, but before I entered the police station, I remembered I had two accounts linked to that card. I then called Absa again to inform them. They said that if the card was stopped, both accounts wouldn’t work. When I got home and my phone was fully charged, I realised they had taken a total of R4 000 and the transactions were done in the space of two minutes each. Those people work very fast. Fortunately for me, I reported the matter to the bank and they will refund me.”
4. False prophecy scam
Ponatso Kitime (22)
“This happened in 2017. I was on my way to Pretoria CBD and I went to Sammy Marks Square to withdraw R1 000. I was going to view accommodation options in Arcadia and as I was walking there a gentleman came from behind, stopped me and acted as if he had a serious headache. He then greeted me and once I greeted back, he started giving me a prophecy and was giving me accurate information about my life. I was getting scared because I wondered how this stranger knew such things. While we were there, another gentleman in a white vest approached us and they pretended not to know each other. The one who had initially approached me then started to give a prophecy to this guy. The second guy then said we should all go to his car so we could have a proper conversation about this prophecy. We then got into a black Tazz and he drove to SunnyPark Mall, as he was driving the other guy kept telling me things about my life.
“He told me that for things in my life to go well, I needed five laptops. I told him I didn’t have five laptops and he said I should contact my friends who had. I tried calling my friends but they all said they couldn’t give them to me for different reasons. I told them I was failing and they told me I should try to get five tablets, I said I knew no one who owned a tablet. They then asked me how much I had on me and I told them I had R1 000. They asked who I stayed with and when I told them they asked what type of phone my mother was using. I told them she used a Huawei smartphone. They said I should give them the money I had because they wanted to pray for it. They also told me to give them a question paper of one of my most difficult subjects so they could pray for it. I told them it was at home and they said we could go collect all these things, including my mother’s phone. At this point I think I was hypnotised because I agreed to everything. I then told them I had been sent an e-wallet of R1 500 and they told me to withdraw all of it as they needed to pray for hard cash.
“We then drove all the way to my home in Kgabalatsane. Once we got there they told me to go inside and take all the phones I could find and that I shouldn’t speak to anyone in the house or else I wouldn’t be able to break this curse that was following me. I then went inside and took my mother’s phone as well as one of my question papers. I now had my phone, my mother’s phone, the question paper and a total of R2 500. I went inside the car and we drove to a complex in Ga-Rankuwa. We stopped at a Shoprite complex and they told me I needed to get salt and water so they could pray for me. They gave me money for the salt and water and told me I had to go purchase those things on my own and that I shouldn’t speak to anyone I knew and that I shouldn’t turn back. I left everything inside the car and got inside Shoprite. As I was walking, something told me to go back and check on those people but they were nowhere to be found. I realised I was scammed and when I went to go report the case, the police told me that there was no element of crime since I had willingly given those people my things. I had to go back home and explain something I couldn’t even explain.”
5. Laptop scam
Karabo Lithoba* (26)
“This happened in Soshanguve. I was coming from my place and walking to the shopping centre to meet up with my roommate who had accidentally taken my bank card. As I was walking, a guy on the street approached me and asked for directions. I told him I didn’t know where he was going and that I couldn’t help. The conversation then switched to church and he began giving me a prophecy and telling me how he was seeing a death. Suddenly, a car stopped next to us and the driver asked this guy if he got the directions. This guy said ‘no’ and told the driver he was talking to me about something he was seeing. The driver then told me how this guy had helped him by giving him a life-changing prophecy. He kept saying he was grateful to this guy and things like that. Throughout all of this, I wasn’t given a chance to think or anything like that. They’d ask me questions and if I took too long to answer they’d jump in and begin talking. At this point I was very confused and didn’t feel like myself.
“They then told me they’d pray for me and that they’d need laptops and other electronic devices. We then got into the car and I took them back to my place. Meanwhile, the driver was also convincing me by telling me how they prayed for his things and how the prayer worked. I can’t even remember how we got to my place and how I went inside and passed one of my friends living in the yard.
“I got into my room and grabbed my laptop as well as my roommate’s laptop and got back into the car. When I got in they asked me if I had any money because they needed to pray for it too. I told them I didn’t have any cash then they told me we could go withdraw money from my account and I told them I didn’t have my bank card with me because my roommate had it with her. They said I shouldn’t call my roommate and said we should go to the shopping centre so I could get water and salt. When we got there, they gave me money to get those things and I left everything in their car. As I was walking I felt like something wasn’t right and once I turned back, the car was gone. That’s when I realised I was robbed. All I could be grateful for was that I didn’t have my bank card with me. While I was with them, I wasn’t thinking clearly and I wasn’t myself.”
*Not their real names.