Watch out for phoney electricity inspector

Val King, Lakeside

A big warning to residents in the deep south about a brazen and foxy conman on the loose in the shape of an “electricity inspector”.

We had the misfortune of being taken for an expensive ride by this tall, thin scoundrel with a frizzy mop of hair who arrives at your door wearing regulation blue uniform and showing you his municipal identity card.

His first ploy was to ask for our meter number. While I was writing it down, he persuaded us he had to enter the house to inspect the meter itself as he could get our rates lowered.

Once at the meter, he started flicking switches on the main electricity board, then told me to unplug the kettle and other appliances. The idea was that he was checking for faulty plugs. When my wife entered the kitchen, he told her to switch on the TV in the lounge to check that plug.

I was caught completely off balance by this tactic but gave him the benefit of the doubt.

In hindsight, we realise his ploy was to distract us while he looked around for things to steal.

My wife’s handbag lay right under the meter, and his mouth must have watered at the sight. He then walked around with a professional air supposedly counting plugs and jotting something on a form.

Within minutes, he had finished and took his leave.

My wife then noticed her smartphone had disappeared from the lounge. I charged down the road after the thief, but he was nowhere to be seen.

About an hour later, our bank’s fraud branch phoned to say there were suspicious card withdrawals taking place from our Nedbank account. They immediately blocked the account. Thanks to Nedbank for their very prompt and efficient action which saved us the potential loss of thousands of rands.

As it was, this criminal had already made seven rapid withdrawals in six minutes before he was blocked.

He must have stolen the Nedbank card from my wife’s handbag while distracting us with checking plugs in the kitchen.

I hate to think how many other homeowners, particularly the elderly like ourselves, have been hoodwinked out of valuable savings by this unscrupulous fraudster.

• Mayoral committee member for for energy and climate change Phindile Maxiti responds: The City does not have members of staff going door-to-door to check on electricity infrastructure without an appointment. When the City needs to do checks on electricity meters, officials will make the necessary appointment with the resident.

Municipal workers and contractors must carry a work order number specific to that dwelling and a City-issued identification card. Residents should please ask to check the official identification card as well as verify the work order reference number with the City’s call centre, before allowing anyone onto their property.

The identification card must display the City logo, the name and surname of the staff member or mandated contractor, and must contain an embedded photo of the staff member or mandated contractor. Residents are not to allow anyone onto their premises until they have verified these details. We urge residents to please be vigilant in these cases.

Any suspicious behaviour must be reported to the City’s law enforcement agencies or the City’s fraud hotline on 0800 323 130 or to the SAPS.

Members of the public may verify whether visitors to their home are in fact employed by the City by calling the City’s call centre and they may confirm with the call centre whether work is being carried out in their area.