Durban - A year-end holiday in Ballito turned sour for a Johannesburg family who discovered, to their shock and dismay, that the accommodation they had booked and paid for through a broker was bogus.
The Wilkinsons only discovered they had been scammed when they arrived in the North Coast town to find that the rental holiday flat was in fact someone’s home.
Kay Wilkinson told the Daily News on Monday that her youngest daughter had booked the flat at Le Roc in Ballito.
Wilkinson, her husband and two of her daughters were looking forward to a beachside break to welcome in the New Year.
“We only made arrangements about two weeks ago and my daughter got an SMS back from this guy, Tony, saying he had accommodation available,” she said.
On calling “Tony”, it was established that he had two apartments to let for December 28 to January 1 – a first floor flat at R2 500 a day and an upstairs flat for R2 000 a day. Wilkinson opted for the R2 000-a-day flat because of the beach view.
“He said we needed to pay straight away because there were so many people interested in the apartments on those dates so I rushed back to the office to transfer the money,” Wilkinson said. “I didn’t think anything of it because we were just so pleased to have accommodation for those dates.”
An invoice was e-mailed to Wilkinson, under the company name of Dolphin Properties, for a 50 percent deposit for five nights.
Although signing his e-mails as “Tony”, the name on the invoice was Adriaan Smith and the banking details were for an account under the name “R. Lochner”.
“I paid the deposit, although we only required four nights, but I explained to Tony that we would just then pay less on arrival and he said ‘no problem’,” Wilkinson said.
“I did a pay-and-clear because he even said there are a number of scammers out there. He then phoned to thank me for paying and said someone would be at the apartment to meet us.”
On arriving in Durban on Saturday, Wilkinson could not get through to Tony on his cellphone.”
The phone was off, so “We went to the address, but it’s a permanent residence.” In an attempt to track down the company, Wilkinson visited ReMax Dolphin Realtors, but they had not organised the booking.
“We realised it was a scam. It was such a disappointment,” she said. “We went to Durban North police station to open a case but were told that, because the EFT transfer was made in Johannesburg, the case must be opened there.”
The family managed to stay overnight with family friends before flying back to Johannesburg.
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said neither Durban North nor any other police could refuse to open a case.