Izette Young, of Parklands, handed over a cellphone she was selling online after getting an SMS from her bank confirming payment, but later she learnt the message was fake and that she appeared to be one of a growing number South Africans falling prey to internet fraud.
Ms Young posted an ad for her Rose Gold Samsung S7 phone on Gumtree on Monday July 23 and within 10 minutes a man, who said his name was David, called to say he had seen the ad and wanted to buy the phone for his daughter.
“This David was very well spoken and he told me that his daughter was doing well in school, so this was a way of rewarding her,” said Ms Young.
“I thought this man was very nice and genuine. He told me that his brother, Richard, would be coming to inspect the phone and see if it’s in the condition I said it was in when they saw it on the advert.
“Richard came on the same day, just after 11am. He was well-dressed and well-spoken and seemed very sincere,” said Ms Young.
Richard took the phone after Ms Young got an SMS saying R5 500 had been paid into her bank account.
As an extra precaution, Ms Young took a picture of Richard holding the Samsung S7 cellphone.
But the money never cleared in her bank account, and over the next two days, Ms Young had several conversations with David and Richard, with David assuring her he had sent the money and that the transaction might be taking longer than expected.
But by Wednesday July 25, she had had enough of the promises and went to Table View SAPS to lay a charge of theft against David and Richard.
She said she met another man at the police station who claimed to have been conned by the same people.
Table View SAPS spokeswoman Captain Adriana Chandler said there had been a countrywide increase in internet fraud and many were falling victim to it.
“In nearly all cases, the suspects will provide false names, which means they are untraceable,” she said.
Captain Chandler said Ms Young’s case had been closed because the suspects had used a phone that wasn’t RICA’d and so couldn’t be traced.
“The case will however be re-opened should new information be brought forward,” she said.
Under the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) cellphone owners need to register, or “Rica”, their SIM cards using their South African ID.
Gumtree spokeswoman Estelle Nagel said they regularly updated the site’s safety functionality and advice to users and they worked with the police.
“Some of the ways that people can stay safe would be to wait for funds to clear before handing over goods. Do not accept via PayPal, MoneyGram or Western Union – these methods are easy to fake and we don’t recommend using them. And try to interact face to face where possible.”
People should trust their gut feeling, she said.
“If something does not feel right about a buyer or a deal, avoid it. There are thousands of other legitimate buyers that would like to buy your item – don’t be hasty. You are under no obligation to sell.”
Standard Bank’s fraud division confirmed that the proof of payment Ms Young received was fake.
“The proof of payment is fraudulent. There is missing information on the template.
“There is no reference number to trace the payment; no beneficiary name; no branch code; no time of when the payment was made,” they said.