Watch out for online scams

The online ad which a 21-year-old man responded to.

Several far-south residents have fallen prey to online scams in recent weeks, say police.

About 40% of new cases are fraud-related, according to Fish Hoek police spokesman Warrant Officer Peter Middelton.

Con artists target the elderly, and the most common cons are perpetrators, contacting their victims and posing as bank employees, he says. They offer to stop suspicious transactions and get the victim to download software that gives them access to the victims’ computer.

“Once you have downloaded the software they have full access to your computer, and they can withdraw all your funds.”

In other cases, victims are told they will be SMSed a one-time PIN (OTP) which they must give the caller to fix a problem on the account. But the OTP is being sent by the victim’s bank to confirm a purchase the perpetrator has made using the victim’s account.

If you are alerted to suspicious activity on your account, you should contact your bank at once and don’t use the phone number provided by the caller or SMS, warns Warrant Officer Middelton.

“If you do get a call from the bank asking you to download any software or to divulge any of your personal information, tell them that you will discuss the matter in private with your branch.”

Buying goods online can also be risky, he adds.

In a recent case, a 21-year man from Fish Hoek who had saved up for his first car responded to an ad for bank-repossessed cars, says Warrant Officer Middelton .

The car was allegedly in George and the man had to pay R3 000 for it to be transported to Fish Hoek and R3 000 in taxes.

The young man was sent the car’s licence and copies of three IDs belonging to the “directors” of the company allegedly selling the car.

He was told that there was a lot of interest in the car and he had to pay for it in order to secure it. Once the money was transferred, none of the “directors” could be reached.

The ID numbers turned out to belong to three random men who had nothing to do with the con, the engine number did not match any vehicle and the chassis number belonged to a 1979 Mercedez Benz.

“The man lost R23 000,” says Warrant Officer Middelton.

In another con, people were paying for exercise equipment from the Amazing Dealzz website but never received their goods. The website turned out to be fake, says Warrant Officer Middelton.

Meanwhile, people trying to avoid sky-rocketing electricity prices turned to the Rentals South Peninsula WhatsApp group, where someone called Darren advertised “great pre-paid electricity and pre-paid deal sales on pending bills and arrears clearance for water and electricity”.

The group advertised 850 units of electricity for R450 and R600 for 1 400 units of water.

Warrant Officer Middelton says that according to statements from victims, Darren promises to send them a “code”, but once payment is made, Darren disappears.

Another elaborate scheme, involving witchcraft, has cost a local woman, 75, more than R1 million, according to Warrant Officer Middelton.

The woman responded to a newspaper ad that claimed it can help her win the lottery. After calling the number on the ad, a woman visited her at her Fish Hoek home. She was asked to select lottery numbers after which the woman performed several “magic spells”.

Warrant Officer Middelton says the con continued for months, and the homeowner sold her house below value after being convinced it was evil and built on a cemetery. She planned to use the money from the house sale to “play the lotto”. However, she was told that the money must first be “cleansed” for a day. The woman placed the money in a large Tupperware container and left it at an address in Vootrekker Road, Bellville, as instructed. The following day, her money and the woman she had left it with disappeared and she could not identify the place in Voortrekker Road where she was taken.

A copy of the fake WhatsApp group selling “cheap” water and electricity.