‘Accident’ cash plea prompts suspicion
Mystery appeal highlights risks to donors, write Helen King and Jacques Steenkamp.
South African expats been asked to donate cash to the victims of a tragic car crash – but there is no evidence the accident happened.
According to a Facebook post, a South African family were driving from the Coromandel to Auckland on Labour Weekend, when their campervan was struck by a stone thrown from an overpass.
The poster claimed both parents were injured and flown to hospital in Auckland while their twin toddlers were left with no one to care for them.
The post pleaded for money to cover the costs of flying their grandmother to New Zealand.
However, detailed inquiries to emergency services and hospitals found no evidence any such crash occurred.
This weekend, police advised caution to anyone considering donating to causes online, particularly through social media pages.
’’Posts are not always genuine and without being able to verify individuals’ identity, donating money comes with risk.’’
The post claims a couple called Odette and Richard along with their twins were involved in a serious accident as they returned from a holiday on the Coromandel at Labour Weekend.
The couple were airlifted to Auckland Hospital, it says, where Odette was in an induced coma and Richard had serious injuries.
There has been a recent spate of rocks being thrown from Auckland motorway overbridges but none that matches this incident.
Some of the 16,000 members of the Facebook page for South African expats began questioning why the incident was not reported in the media.
‘‘I cannot understand that nothing of this was on the news or can be found anywhere?’’ one Wellington woman asked.
‘‘If something as insignificant as a truck holding up traffic at the end of a long weekend is newsworthy, so should this be.’’
But the administrator stopped her from asking questions and threatened her with legal action, she said.
It isn’t the first time a post has been made on this Facebook page describing scenarios where a couple needed financial help.
In September, an appeal was made for money for a South African couple and claiming the wife had been defrauded of money in Dubai Airport.
In August, an appeal went out for money to help a South African man who was behind in his rent. The same person has made all three appeals.
Police say no crash fitting the description occurred on Labour Day.
Auckland City Hospital confirmed it has no patients in its head injury unit by the name of Odette. Neither does Middlemore Hospital.
The Westpac rescue helicopter did not attend a crash that required two patients to be airlifted to hospital either.
However, the administrator of the page who wrote the post is adamant the crash did occur.
The administrator later updated the original post to thank everyone who donated money and to inform them that ‘‘the ticket has been paid for from donations we received from ... members’’.
Yesterday, after attempts to contact the Facebook page administrators, the page was frozen with a final post stating ‘‘we have reason to believe the ... forum has been hacked’’.
The admin said they had temporarily archived the page so that an alleged ‘‘virus’’ did not spread.
The administrator eventually responded, saying he couldn’t disclose any information as the ‘‘confidential nature of assistance to group members’’ would be jeopardised.
Police say reports of suspicious behaviour, which may included fraudulent requests for money, should be directed to a local police station.