Syndicate works sly pensioner scam
Fears that some city officials might be involved
JOBURG pensioners are being scammed out of thousands of rand by a sophisticated syndicate of con artists. And it appears that certain City of Joburg officials are providing the victims’ personal and account information to the scamsters.
On Wednesday, The Star reported that an Elton Hill man had been defrauded of R13 000 by these smooth talkers.
On Thursday, in response to the article, a Malvern man told his story, which involves the same modus operandi and the same well-dressed, smooth-talking individuals who described themselves to their victims as half-Indian and coloured.
The Malvern man, who is 80, is a retired schoolteacher. He owns a property next door to his home that he lets to tenants.
“They use very little water, using up the free kilolitres, so their account is always under R1. However, for November I got a bill of R1 062. I called Thuso House and they told me to take a photo of the meter and email it to them,” he said.
The very next day he got a call from someone saying she was from the city and that fibre-optic cables had been installed, and these were being linked to special meters which would offer pensioners a 40 percent rebate.
“It is true that they had been installing the cables, so I believed her,” the man said.
A few days later, someone arrived at his house saying his name was Carl Lander.
“He gave me his whole family history. He was eloquent, well dressed and very friendly, and I very naively believed him, also because he had all my personal details such as my ID number and the properties I own.
“These could only have been obtained from someone at the city offices,” he said.
The pensioner was told that all three water meters would have to be replaced with a solar geyser and panels – two in his rented properties and one in his own.
“He even climbed onto the roof to see where the panels would be installed. I had just cashed in an endowment policy, so I had some money available,” he said. “He questioned me about my income, and said that because I owned other properties, I would not qualify for the pensioner rebate, but said he would motivate my case for me to the higher powers.
“I fell for it hook, line and sinker. He said it had to be done before Christmas and he pressured me into paying upfront. He drove me to the bank, and that was the last I heard of him.”
Another victim, also a pensioner, lives in Kensington.
Out of the blue, he got a call offering him a 40 percent pensioner discount on his account.
“As pensioners, my wife and I live hand to mouth every month, so this sounded like a dream come true.”
The man, now calling himself Carl Naidoo, arrived on his doorstep within five minutes of the call.
“He had all our details and then asked about our income, which is only our pension. He told us he would have to replace the meters to link them to the pensioner’s discount. I asked why and he could not give me an answer, saying he was not a technical person.”
He asked for R1 600, and the pensioners said they did not have the money.
“He said if I could just give him a small deposit of any amount, I could pay off the rest, and the balance would be added to my account over two instalments.” A few days later he got a call from someone in Durban asking for his account details so he could deposit the money.
The pensioner refused to release his details and said he would put a cheque in the post.
“I swore at him and told him I had contacted the police.”
The Cleveland police said three cases had been opened and many more reported, but not pursued, because no money had been exchanged.
Captain Johan Jordaan said all incidents involved an Indian and a coloured male.
“Residents should phone the city council and enquire about such people. They can also phone the Cleveland police station.”
Anyone else who had been defrauded should open a case, he said.