In response to the growing concern surrounding fraud across Newcastle, the Newcastle SAPS (South African Police Service) has taken proactive measures to address the issue.
Fraud booms in Newcastle, SAPS establish special unit in response
Newcastle Detectives recently established a specialised fraud unit dedicated to investigating the escalating number of cases plaguing the local community.
Leading the newly formed unit, Captain Shabir Ismail highlighted the urgency of the situation, stating that there are currently 263 fraud cases reported between January and June 2023. Each case serves as a reminder of the critical importance of community vigilance and the need for a robust police presence.
Reflecting on the magnitude of the problem, Captain Ismail shed light on the most prevalent types of fraud occurring in Newcastle. He revealed that approximately 60% of the cases involve ATMs, making them the primary target for fraudulent activities.
The hotspots for this form of fraud have been identified as Terminus Street, Scott Street, and local malls.
“While there are security guards in these areas, this crime is happening in broad daylight,” stressed Captain Ismail.
He emphasised that individuals often fall victim to this crime by seeking assistance from strangers or falling prey to tampered ATMs. Captain Ismail urged the community, saying, “It is important not to accept any help from strangers, withdraw cash from isolated ATMs, and always ensure there is nothing suspicious about the machine you are using.”
In addition to ATM fraud, online fraud has also been rampant in Newcastle, resulting in several residents losing substantial sums of money.
Captain Ismail explained that Facebook and Instagram are the most popular platforms used by fraudsters for this type of crime. He revealed that cars, solar panels, inverters, and pets are commonly used as bait to lure unsuspecting residents.
Furthermore, Captain Ismail shared a recent incident where a victim lost over R90,000 after attempting to purchase a vehicle advertised on Facebook.
The victim contacted a man claiming to be from a dealership in Bloemfontein, discussed pricing, and made a deposit and a second payment. However, the supposed vehicle dealer disappeared, and upon investigation, it was discovered that the dealership did not exist.
Another person fell victim to a similar scam while trying to order solar panels from an online business advertised on Facebook.
Despite verifying the company’s website and making the necessary payment, the victim discovered that the person they spoke to did not work for a legitimate company. The fraudster had meticulously created a fake social media page, complete with the business’s letterhead and corporate logo. Astonishingly, one victim received a package containing bricks instead of the promised solar panels.
Captain Ismail stressed that fraudsters go to great lengths to make their scams appear authentic, including setting up fake websites, taking photographs of legitimate businesses, and even sending out invoices with official company letterheads.
With the number of fraud cases growing daily, Captain Ismail highlighted the role of unemployment in driving such crimes.
Fraudsters often exploit the economic climate to their advantage, enticing vulnerable individuals with monetary incentives to participate in their schemes. Captain Ismail explained that fraudsters convince poor people to open bank accounts on their behalf in exchange for money.
However, when a fraud case is discovered, the person who opened the account becomes the focus of police scrutiny.
To address the escalating issue, Captain Ismail urged Newcastillians impacted by fraud to step forward and report the matter. A dedicated fraud investigation unit, spearheaded by Captain Ismail and comprising six officers, has been established to crack down on this white collar crime.
Victims can contact Captain Shabir Ismail on 079 500 0482, Jean Pierre on 079 500 0522, or Warrant Officer de Meyer on 082 558 1298.
Moreover, Captain Ismail emphasised that fraudsters come from various backgrounds and make great efforts to appear as respectable businesspeople. He urged residents to exercise vigilance when making online purchases or using cash point services, advising them to verify the legitimacy of the business, confirm account details with the bank, and ensure their payment cards never leave their sight.
In addition, Captain Ismail highlighted another scam circulating in Newcastle and across the country, where individuals posing as police officials prey on people’s emotions and instil fear to extort money.
These scammers claim to be calling from the police office, provide personal information about their victims which they have somehow acquired, and falsely accuse them of crimes such as rape. To resolve the fabricated case, the scammers demand a sum of money, promising to avoid arrest and legal consequences.
While fraud cases often take several months to resolve due to the rigorous process of gathering evidence, Captain Ismail urged victims to remain patient and report the incidents. Reporting these cases is crucial to protect others and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
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