Criminals are pulling out all the stops to defraud Mitchell’s Plain residents with loan applications, holiday destinations and investments through online dating and social media platforms.
Mitchell’s Plain police station spokesman, Captain Ian Williams, said the modus operandi was similar in many cases, whereby the fraudsters would place a fraudulent advertisement of a holiday resort or loan either on WhatsApp or other social media platforms and communicate via email.
He said the fraudsters use legitimate business stationery, including letterheads or logos, but they insert their own or other bank details.
“The victim then unknowingly pays money into the fraudster’s account,” he said.
Captain Williams warned that holiday applicants should ensure the resort has a landline and that the physical address does exist.
When it comes to loans and investments, he added, do not use WhatsApp to make an application; rather use the company’s website to download the application form.
He said fraudsters were also using online taxi services to deliver or pick up goods which the victims paid for but the goods never arrived or they did not receive the payment.
“Importantly, verify the banking details of goods and services you are paying for.
“When you receive proof of payment verify that the cash has been deposited in your account, before you hand over goods or motor vehicles,” he said.
Online dating victims are duped into paying a release fee to the courier for a “gift”, he said, adding that one should also avoid clicking on any links contained in text messages one was not expecting.
“Fraudsters may be phishing for personal details and your device can be infected with malware.
“Fraudsters are also taking advantage of the volatile situation in the financial sector and marketing fake investment opportunities. Be vigilant,” he said.
Taxi commuters targeted
Mitchell’s Plain police station commander Brigadier Cass Goolam said robbers had been targeting bus and taxi commuters for their cellphones.
He recommended that commuters safeguard themselves by:
not carrying valuables in plain sight;
minimising the number of valuables taken along when using public transport;
trusting your gut – if you feel uncomfortable about a situation, then rather take a later taxi;
not confronting suspects but taking note of their features like face, hair, height, body build, tattoos and clothing as this information could lead to the arrest of the perpetrators;
reporting all incidents soon after occurrence as this would enable law enforcement agencies to respond faster; and
not walking walk with your head down, wearing headphones or focusing on your cellphone when in public.
Brigadier Goolam said the Mitchell’s Plain community exacerbated crime by remaining by-standers; refusing to participate in initiatives to prevent crime like joining the neighbourhood watch; and participating in the Community in Blue programme, aimed at “operationalising the concept of community policing with a view of stimulating active citizenry and citizen participation in the fight against crime”.
“The more people participate, the greater visibility we would have in terms of gear worn and insignia indicating opposition to crime and link to law enforcement. Our current safety structures have a big impact on reducing crime,” he said.
Brigadier Goolam said the police would maintain a zero tolerance approach in their efforts to combat and investigate crime and thanked the community
for providing information on crime.