Editorial: The wave of property scams in the city is increasing at an alarming rate. Most recent is the story of Murwira who was almost duped to the amount of R20 000 by suspecting con artist.
CAPE TOWN – A Table View Famly who fell victim to an online scam say seeking justice from the police only added to their ordeal.
Last month, Carlos Murwira and his sister, Josephine Chimbo, forkd out almost R20 000 for a Parklands flat they found through an online letting Agency, First Trust Property.
The website claimed to have a two-bedroom flat available at Park Royal on Parklands Main Road and even provided photos of the inside of an empty flat. Mr Murwira wanted to move into the one bedroom with his girlfriend, leaving the ofther for his sister, so he emailed Herna Billy, the contact person listed on the website.
“They asked for a few personal details like bank statement and copy of ID. Everything looked legitimate. I didn’t suspect a thing,” he said, adding that he had also driven by Park Royal and noticed a sign advertising a flat for rent.
On Monday May 1, Mr Murwira heard his application had been successful, and he was emailed a one-year lease agreement. The email said he should “get back soonest with proof of payment to secure the unit”. He did just that, paying R12 000, along with the first month rent of R6000 and a R280 admin fee (a total of R18 280) by EFT on the same day. And by 4:30pm all his belongings were loaded on the back of a truck.
“I tried calling the landline number to find out when we could collect the keys but there was no answer. Then I got an email saying the agent couldn’t make it for the day and that we could get keys the next day at 12pm. I emailed back saying I had nowhere to go and that my stuff was already loaded on a truck. They responded saying I should book into a hotel and put my things in storage and they would foot the bill for everything”.
Mr Murwira told them he would collect the keys from their offices but was told “they only work by appointment”. He decided to ignore this and drove with his eight-month pregnant wife to the physical address provided on the website. When he got to 57 Main Road, Muizenberg, he discovered it was a Seeff estate agency.
I asked if there was a First Trust Property office there and they didn’t know what I was talking about. I felt weak but I had to be strong for my wife. She burst out crying.”
Acting swiftly, Mr Murwira called his sister and told her to call standard bank to “flag the recipient’s account”. He drove to Simon’s Town’s Standard Bank branch and was put through to the fraud department. Mr Murwira said the money hadn’t dropped into the recipient’s account yet because of the public holiday and they were able to freeze the account.
Mr Murwira spent the night at his friend’s couch and had to take his wife to his sister.
On Wednesday May 3, Mr Murwira went to the Table View police station to open a case. “While I was I was talking to the constable, a detective came up behind me and said it was no use opening the case because it wouldn’t stand up in court. He said “it was my stupidity.”
He returned two days later and open a case, when he hadn’t received an SMS with his case number by the evening, he returned the next day to inquire from the police.
Standard Bank Spokesman Ross Linstrom said the incident had been investigate and resolved, and Mr Murwira has been notified.
“Standard Bank regards the safety and security of customers’ account as crucial. Banks are taking significant steps every day to combat and prevent online fraud.
Mr Murwira confirmed that the money has been returned to his account.
Read the rest of the story on TableTalk