The prospect of buying a new home is usually an exciting one but not so for two families from the greater Retreat area.
Since the start of the year, two residents have reported losing more than R10 000 to contractors who supposedly build Nutec prefab houses.
Steenberg police spokesperson, Sgt Wesley Twigg, confirmed two cases of fraud were currently under investigation.
“The first case was reported on Thursday 23 January. The complainant responded to an ad for Nutec houses on Gumtree,” reads the police statement.
The complainant, Alan Dicks from Lakeview, says he and his wife were eager to move out of their old wendy house and into their new prefab unit.
“I got the guys on Gumtree and then I answered the ad. They contacted me to ask if I’m interested. We chatted on WhatsApp and they sent me a couple of photos of how the structure looks,” he explained.
“They said they can do it and we asked if they could add an extra place for a toilet because we didn’t want the toilet inside the room.”
Dicks recalls chatting to the contractors regularly until the day they came out to inspect the space.
“They went into the yard and they measured it out. They brought a few planks that they were supposedly going to use – they said plumbing and electricity had to be done and that they’d put in a meter box.”
He said the six men inspecting the property seemed legitimate. Once the measurements had been taken, they told Dicks he had to pay 65% of the cost upfront.
“I withdrew R10 000 that day and gave them the cash, and R5 400 I deposited into an account for the materials – and we haven’t seen them again. They’re taking people for a ride!”
Dicks added that he and his wife, Elizabeth, had been looking forward to putting up this new place in honour of their son.
“My son was shot in December. He always said he wanted to move in with us and so we decided to do something (to honour) him. He was shot 37 times in Cafda.”
The money used to pay the contractors was from a life insurance policy they received when their son died.
Dicks works as a merchandiser and his wife cares for two elderly residents one day per week. The loss of their money, he says, is even more heartbreaking because they may not be able to save up that sum any time soon.
The second incident reported shares similarities with the Dicks family’s case.
The police report states: “The second case was reported on Wednesday 29 January where the complainant was called by the suspect who informed the complainant that she is selling Nutec houses. The suspect told the complainant to deposit R11 000 in her bank account and then the suspect disappeared.”
Police urge residents to be vigilant when purchasing items advertised by private sellers on Gumtree or similar websites.