Criminals posing as cops, towing firms rip off Bay motorists
A scam in which criminals masquerading as police officers and tow truck owners ask victims of car theft to pay cash to retrieve their “recovered” vehicles has emerged in Nelson Mandela Bay.
This comes as three people were hijacked and a further three vehicles stolen in six separate incidents in the Bay in 24 hours.
Four of the vehicles – two hijacked VW Polos and two stolen bakkies – have since been found abandoned, while the other two cars are still missing.
Crime statistics released two weeks ago revealed that two motorists were hijacked and four vehicles stolen every day in the Bay.
In the wake of the latest incidents, police have also warned of a new scam.
“Over the past two months, we have noted a new scam by criminals in vehicle theft and hijacking gangs,” police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said.
“The criminals somehow manage to get the owners’ details and phone them, claiming to be police officials who have found their stolen cars.
“They say the car has been recovered in a different town and the owner needs to pay a sum of money via e-wallet to get it back.
“The amount is usually between R1 500 and R2 000.
“The person assumes it is the police and makes the deposit, only to realise later it was the criminals who had stolen the car.
“How they [scamsters] get the details of the owner is still being investigated.
“It could be as simple as a business card left in the vehicle or it could be that they have access to confidential information.”
One victim of the scam – Motherwell resident Sidwell Lande, 46 – had his Isuzu bakkie stolen in 14th Avenue, Walmer, last month and was conned out of R2 000.
“After the vehicle was stolen, I reported it to the Walmer police station,” Lande said.
“Two days later, I got a phone call from a man who claimed he was a police captain from Sterkspruit and had found my car at a roadblock.
“I was hesitant at first, but then I heard police radios in the background and, when I questioned him, he told me the case number, my registration number and my cellphone number.
“I asked how he knew all this information as he was in Sterkspruit. He told me it was all on the police system.”
Lande said shortly after talking to the “police officer”, he was phoned by a “tow truck driver”.
“The tow truck guy said if I paid him R2 000 he would tow my car to Port Elizabeth.
“I questioned him about it and he said if I did not pay, my car would stay at the police pound until the investigation was finished,” he said.
“I borrowed the money from my mother and called him back.
“He did not want a bank transfer as it took too long.
“He told me to do a money transfer at the shopping centre as it would be instant.”
Lande paid the money, but the bakkie never arrived.
“Two weeks later, I was called by a police captain in Welkom who said they had recovered my bakkie at a roadblock.
“I told him to call Walmer police so they can arrange for it to be transferred to Port Elizabeth,” Lande said.
“That was the last I heard of it.
“I am convinced this is a police official. He had all my details and even the case number. The police radios in the background also made it very realistic.”
Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said yesterday a stolen bakkie and one of the hijacked Polos were recovered 30 minutes apart by the Flying Squad’s Warrant Officers Deon Fourie and Gerhard van der Merwe.
One vehicle, a Polo, had been stolen during a house robbery in Mbila Street in Motherwell at about 8.15am yesterday.
“The Flying Squad members received information from a tracking company about 15 minutes after the robbery and found the car abandoned behind a house in Qeqe Street, Soweto-on-Sea.”
Thirty minutes earlier, the same two officers had found a stolen Isuzu bakkie in Zweliyazuza Street in Motherwell.
The vehicle had been stolen in Cuyler Street, Central, late on Wednesday night.
A few hours earlier, at 6pm, a hairdresser was hijacked in Mntanezulu Street in Motherwell.
“Her stolen Polo was found about two hours later in Zweliyazuza Street in Motherwell.
“Vehicles are usually dumped somewhere for the suspects to ascertain if the car has a vehicle tracking system,” Beetge said.
An hour before the Central incident, a Ford Ranger bakkie was stolen in KwaNobuhle.
Police spokeswoman Captain Gerda Swart said the bakkie had been parked in an open field near Jabavu Street while the owner was herding cattle, when three armed men threatened him and fled in his vehicle.
It was found abandoned in KwaNobuhle yesterday afternoon.
The same day, a Toyota Corolla was stolen at the Gardens Shopping Centre in Lorraine and a vehicle was stolen at Cleary Park Shopping Centre.