Theft out of car leaves couple out of pocket

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The parking areas outside the entry to Newlands Forest. Police warn that the parking lot, M3 and adjacent roads have become a hotspot for thefts out of vehicles. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen
The parking areas outside the entry to Newlands Forest. Police warn that the parking lot, M3 and adjacent roads have become a hotspot for thefts out of vehicles. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen
Nettalie Viljoen

Claremont police station’s warning that the Newlands Forest’s parking lot and surrounds have become a hotspot for theft out of and theft of motor vehicles came four months too late for a Newlands couple.

Justin Ashley, who has lived on Newlands Forest’s border for the past 20 years, says he was unaware of how prevalent theft out of cars at the parking lot had become.

That is until his wife, Susan, was targeted last year.

Susan attends an hour-long martial arts training class early in the morning, twice a week.

One morning in October, she returned to her vehicle to find it had been broken into.

The passenger-side door lock had been jimmied.

Luckily, or so she thought, nothing had been stolen. She was glad to find her wallet and cellphone still in the car.

It was only an hour later when an email alerted Justin that R9 770 had been spent at Hollywoodbets (a betting operator) that the couple realised something was amiss.

Unbeknownst to Susan, the thieves had taken down her credit card details before placing it back in her wallet. They also swopped out her cellphone’s sim card.

When Susan got home she mentioned to her husband there was something wrong with her phone. He says he was busy fiddling with the phone, trying to get it to work, when the payment alert came through via email.

The criminals, having stolen Susan’s sim card, were able to attain her PUK number by placing her sim in another phone, allowing them to access her cellphone provider’s automated customer service. This gave the thieves access to her messaging service and, subsequently, the one-time password (OTP) number sent to verify an online payment.

As soon as the couple realised what was happening, they notified the financial institution and stopped the card.

“A minute after that, a Takealot (online store) purchase of R10 300 was made. Thankfully, that was declined,” Justin says.

However, the financial institution refused to refund the Hollywoodbets transaction.

“For them, the OTP number makes it a legitimate transaction,” he says.

They were able to claim R3 000 on their insurance benefit for credit card fraud.

Justin says before this incident he was aware that there had been other thefts out of vehicles in and around the Newlands Forest parking lot.

“But it seemed to be an occasional thing. It is only when I took a real interest that I realised it was happening all the time,” he says.

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