Shrine Scam: Another 44 people admit losing millions in pensions, savings and loans

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More than 40 W24 readers have shared stories of how they have been conned by shrine scammers.
More than 40 W24 readers have shared stories of how they have been conned by shrine scammers.
Photo: Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images
  • Since W24 shared a story about Lerato*, a woman who was scammed out of R1 million, many victims of similar scams have stepped forward to share their stories - and 44 of them were scammed in the same way she was.
  • Some lost millions after they were forced to apply for loans, resign from work or sell their cars and homes to raise funds for the scammers.
  • A mother lost her daughter to suicide after she was scammed off R500 000. One reader lost R4 million, and another is homeless with her two children.

When W24 shared the heartbreaking story of *Lerato Khumalo who was scammed out of R1 million by a man she met online, we had no idea we would receive such an overwhelming response from people who had fallen victim to similar con artists.

Lerato told us the scammer convinced her that he could rescue her from money troubles through a simple ritual, asking her to wrap R420 in a white cloth and deliver it to his home, along with candles, a big tin of coffee and a bag.

When she went, a disembodied voice could be heard in a room containing a shrine, instructing her to make loans at several banks. Lerato eventually handed the man R1 million from credit cards and savings in the hope that it would multiply and her financial struggles would come to an end.

Days later, the scammer handed the woman a box and told her she would find R7 million inside of it - the fruits of her hard labour and trust. But Lerato would end up finding nothing but pieces of paper inside the container.

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The story might seem far-fetched, but Lerato is not the only one who lost money in this kind of scam.

More than a hundred W24 readers have stepped forward to share their stories about being scammed out of massive amounts of money - and 44 of them were scammed in the same way Lerato was. They were either asked to bring a large tin of coffee, heard the voice of "ancestors" in a shrine, asked to bring a bag, or were provided with a container or box filled with pieces of paper. Some were asked to throw their money into a river and were given wet paper, which they thought was money, in return.

Below, we have included some of the messages sent to us.

One woman shared that, for her daughter, a scam ended in suicide:

"My daughter made loans, made overdrafts in her credit cards to the tune of more than R500 000. She committed suicide because of those heavy losses and debts. She was also given a box which was put inside a bag."

This reader lost R4 million:

"I was also scammed out of R4 million by the same person who did the same thing to me in 2014."

Another reader said a scammer convinced her mother to leave her job:

"In this case, I wasn't the one defrauded, but it's my mom. This man convinced her to resign from her job, cash out her pension fund and then sell her fully paid-up car and put that money in a white plastic bag and throw it into the Benoni Lake."

READ MORE | 'My boyfriend of 2 months scammed me off R600 000, told me to pawn my car and faked a hijacking'

*Margaret and her two children were left homeless after she was scammed:

"I've been in the same situation as Lerato Khumalo, who was scammed [out of] money by [the] ancestral thing. I would like to find the guys as well because what they did to her is the same thing done to me. Can I please identify the guy [to see] if he is the same person...the guy ran away from the place he was doing the ritual and I have his car document because when he ran away, I took the car keys. So, I kept his car that he bought with my money. I can tell the whole story properly. I'm homeless with my two kids because of those people." 

One reader has depression after being scammed in 2008:

"I was conned the same way in 2008. I felt my life was finished. I nearly committed suicide. I am now suffering from depression. Even today, I have never recovered from the financial loss I went through."

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This reader lost about R1.5 million and was tricked into believing her scammer was outside of the country, not realising he was closer than she knew:

"I was fooled, and I believe I was under a spell, and after resigning, I was told to draw all the money and bring it to the house which was an amount of R1.5 million as I have been with the company for over 20 years. [The scammer] would call me and tell me that he is still busy with paperwork at home in Zambia and that he wants to come back to South Africa but doesn't not have money and that I need to transfer money for him at Shoprite. One day, when I went to Shoprite and the cashier asked me where are you sending the money and I told her Zambia. She told me they only send money to [places in] South Africa. When we checked the previous voucher, they were all withdrawn at Shoprite Rosettenville, Jo'burg. That's when it dawned on me that I had been scammed and the guy never left South Africa." 

And finally, this reader fought back and got her R13 000 from the scammer:

"Can Lerato share the pics of that guy? I had a similar story but not exactly as hers. The guy was doing that here in Durban. I also went to the bank, I got money, and I gave him, overall, about R13 000. He told me my salary would be doubled. The pay date came, no money was doubled. Eventually, I confronted him in front of his other clients at his place and got my money back because I caused a scene. A friend who helped me resolve the matter told me he is now rich and lives in Sandton, which means his scam is working."

Falling victim to a cash scam can have a tremendous impact on not only victims' livelihoods but their mental health, and can sometimes lead to depression. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group offers free counselling services. Contact them on 0800 567 567. 

*Names have been changed or removed to protect the privacy of those sharing their stories.

READ MORE | Woman sees all the red flags after scammer lies about sending her R19 500 'by mistake'

Have you fallen victim to a similar scam? W24 wants to hear your story. Tells us about it here.

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