Elderly pair fall victim to prepaid electricity scam
News / 11 April 2016, 11:34am / Murray Swart and Patsy Beangstrom
Kimberley - The Sol Plaatje Municipality has opened a criminal case after an elderly couple in New Park were conned into spending hundreds of rands on buying a prepaid electricity meter in what appears to be the latest scam to hit the city.
Jeanette and Robert Horowitz, said that they had been fooled into handing over money to a very presentable man who claimed to be installing electricity meters on behalf of the municipality.
“Earlier this week, I received a call from a very well-spoken lady who said she was from the Northern Cape Municipality’s head office in Johannesburg,” Jeanette said.
“She was extremely friendly and knew quite a bit of personal information about us.
“After a few days, we were visited by a well-dressed and very presentable man who said that he had come to explain how the new meter system would work. He also explained to us that, as pensioners, we would receive a rebate.”
Jeanette said that the amount of personal information that the suspect had about them had caught them off guard and that they only realised that they had been scammed once it was too late.
“He seemed to have a great deal of information about us,” she said. “He even knew how much our municipal accounts had been for the last three months.
“He told us that the meter would cost us R1 800, with an additional R550 installation fee, and added that they also had another product, similar to a generator, which provides electricity during load shedding. This device cost R4 000 and I told him that as pensioners, we just do not have that kind of money.
“We asked how payment for the meter would work and were told to give him a portion of the money and the rest could be paid off.”
The couple said that their suspicions were raised when the suspect was unable to provide them with a receipt, but he gave them a phone number to call and assured them that everything was above board.
“He told us he would be back on Thursday but there was no sign of him.”
“This is obviously a scam,” Sol Plaatje Municipal spokesman, Sello Matsie, said.
“Residents are reminded that under no circumstances can municipal staff ever take money from members of the public. All payments must be done at the municipality’s cashiers.
“The municipality will also not enter into an agreement with a third party for the installation of pre-paid meters as these need to be connected to the municipality’s system.”
Matsie added that the police had been notified and a criminal investigation would be launched.
He urged residents to report any person posing as a municipal official to the police.
The elderly couple, meanwhile, were visited by the co-ordinator of the prepayment replacement project for the municipality, Andrew Williams, and the project manager, Josephine Modutle, on Friday afternoon, who assured them that action would be taken against any municipal official who is implicated in any illegal activity.
“We will be returning to the couple on Tuesday when we will personally ensure that their meter is properly installed by the right people,” Modutle said.
“We are concerned about the amount of account information that the suspects were able to produce and are trying to establish where it came from.
“At the municipality, employees in our customer care and billing departments are able to access this type of information and we are looking at the option of conducting polygraph tests to see if anyone was involved from our side.”
Similar scams have been reported in other parts of the country and according to reports the prepaid meters that are installed by the scammers have, in fact, been stolen from other municipalities.