City not aware of meter scammers

These scammers tend to operate where there are many elderly residents.

The City of Cape Town is not aware of scammers posing as electricity officials in Strandfontein, but there is a project under way to replace meters that have become redundant, faulty or compromised.

Mario Oostendurp, chairman of Strandfontein Residents’ Association, said phoney electricity officials had scammed three residents in recent weeks.

He sent out WhatsApp messages cautioning residents.

“According to the City, they have a set schedule when the meters will be replaced, with notification done via letter box drop-offs,” he said.

The City in a media statement said that it was aware of an apparent scam where a criminal, posing as an electricity official, asked for details about a Bellville resident’s prepaid electricity meter in an attempt to gain access to their home.

Phindile Maxiti, mayoral committee member for energy and climate change, said a City-approved contractor was being used to investigate and change meters.

“The City contacts customers prior to the visit, advising them of the intention to inspect and change the meter.

“An appointment at a date and time at the customer’s earliest convenience is then arranged.”

He said visits to residences where the City suspects tampering of the metering installation may be done without prior warning.

“The safety of our customers is a priority and we are providing the consumer with a reference number when the appointment is made which they can use to verify its legitimacy by contacting the City’s call centre,” Mr Maxiti said.

The City’s media statement warned of phoney electricity officials asking residents for their details regarding their prepaid electricity meter in an attempt to gain access to their home.

Earlier this year, the City became aware of similar apparent scams in the Helderberg and Parow areas.

These scammers tend to operate where there are many elderly residents.

Mr Maxiti said once the City alerts members of the public of the scam, the criminals tend to move to another area.

The scammers tend to work in pairs and encourage the resident to open the front door so that electricity infrastructure, including the meter, can be checked.

While one scammer talks to the resident, the other steals small personal items, including purses and cellphones.

According to Section 12 of the Electricity Supply By-law of 2010, City employees and contractors have the right to reasonable admittance to a property.

However, the City does not have members of staff going door-to-door to check on infrastructure without an appointment.

The City does check on electricity meters every so often, but must make an appointment with the resident.

Revenue protection staff may visit residents without an appointment in cases of suspected meter tampering but will have a letter with them confirming the purpose of the visit.

At no stage would a City official come to your door asking for a meter number to offer you a discount, Mr Maxiti said.

If a customer comes across an offer like this, it could very well be that the intention is to tamper with the meter.

Mr Maxiti said all municipal workers and contractors must carry a work-order number specific to that dwelling and a City-issued identification card.

Residents should ask to check the official’s identification card 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.”

He said residents were not to allow anyone into their premises until they have verified these details.

“Our residents should always be vigilant in these cases,” he said.

Any suspicious behaviour must be reported to the City’s law enforcement agencies or SAPS.

The public can verify whether visitors to their home are in fact employed by the City by calling 086 010 3089 to confirm whether work is being carried out in their area; and inform the official that they will allow them entry only once the call centre has verified their identity.

Residents are reminded that in adherence to national regulations, the reading of residential electricity credit meters will only be done at lower Covid-19 lockdown levels.

Residents will continue to be billed on estimates and are encouraged to register for e-services and manually submit their readings.

The City’s e-services platform allows you to submit water or electricity readings; pay accounts online; view your current account and account history; apply to receive your account via email and log service requests.

To register for e-services visit the City’s online e-services portal or read your meter on a regular basis and send a photo of the meter reading by email to electricity.MeterReading@capetown.gov.za. You can also call 021 444 6286/8432/8478/1554 or 0860 103 089 to give your meter reading.