Take care when investing, shopping online, cops warn

Nyanga police had their hands full on Saturday, distributing pamphlets before hosting an imbizo with shoppers at the Philippi Mall.

Nyanga police are concerned about the number of scams, and fraud and robbery cases being reported to them. And, in the light of this, are urging people to be extremely careful when they are presented with investment opportunities or even purchasing items online.

At an imbizo held at the Philippi Mall on Saturday, police said fraudsters target their victims over the phone, via WhatsApp, email or by word of mouth.

During Saturday’s imbizo, Nyanga SAPS station commander Brigadier Vuyisile Ncata urged shop-owners and shoppers to always be sceptical when they receive unexpected WhatsApp messages, and telephone calls. They also distributed pamphlets with advice on how to avoid being scammed or robbed.

Brigadier Ncata said one method involves luring someone with online offers and then robbing the person when in-person delivery or payment is due to take place.

“In most cases that we get, these online shops are lured in and robbed of phones, wallets and the vehicles. The robbers are so smart that they know how to target all these shops. We are saying to shop-owners or online sellers they need to be vigilant. They need to verify their buyers. Or if they are not sure they need to contact police to go to these areas. That is why we are here today. But also ordinary people seem to fall prey to these robbers,” he said.

He also warned shoppers about ATM scammers who get hold of their victims’ bank cards. “How they get the victim’s PIN code is a mystery, but it happens,” said Brigadier Ncata.

“We need people not to give out their cards to strangers or ask assistance from people they do not know. Some of the fraudsters can look real decent. Never hand over your card and PIN numbers or even your bank information to strangers,” he warned.

Nyanga Community Policing Forum secretary Dumisani Qwebe said the situation has been bad and that they had agreed with the police to host weekly awareness campaigns.

“We will hold a campaign tomorrow (Friday May 20) in Crossroads. People are victims of Marketplace on facebook. We want people to stop shopping from that platform or (arrange for) the delivery to happen at the police station.

“Our people are victims of these criminals,” he said.

A resident of Crossroads who identified herself only as Thandeka said she had nearly been robbed by two women while shopping in Ottery. Somehow, she said, she had been convinced to hand over her bank card and PIN to the women, speculating that they had used muti.

“I went to buy a few things. But when I was still window shopping I met these two beautiful women who asked for my bank card and my PIN. I gladly gave it to them without asking a question. Don’t ask me what happened but I did. My mind came back quickly as they moved and I went to my bank app to stop everything,” she told Vukani.

While she believed that no matter how much advice was given, there would always be people who fell for the scams, she praised police for the effort they were making to raise awareness.

Police hand out pamphlets containing information about scams and fraud.
Members of the neighbourhood watch were part of the meeting with residents.