Kimberley - People selling their homes in Kimberley have become the latest target for burglars, who pose as potential home buyers to get their hands on jewellery and electronic equipment.
A Herlear resident, whose house is on the market, said on Thursday that on Wednesday last week a silver BMW 6 series pulled up at his door. “I was on the phone and I saw this car stopping. The driver hooted. We had just signed an offer to purchase the night before so I thought it was the wife, with some friends, who was coming to look. The women were all well dressed and well groomed.”
The resident said he unlocked his front gate and let them inside. “They asked me to open the side gate, which was a bit strange, but I did so.
The resident walked ahead of the women and they went into the flat on the premises. “The one woman asked about the gas geyser and how it worked. She seemed very interested so I explained. Every time I wanted to move, she would ask another question and kept me busy.”
He only realised afterwards that while he was explaining and answering questions, the other two women were rummaging through the contents of the flat. “They must have gone around the side and handed the stolen items over the wall to the person sitting in the car.”
He said once they were back in the main house, he went into his office to show a municipal account to the one woman. “She kept looking at the photos and asked about the people in the photos, while the other two went into the main bedroom.”
When the group left, he realised that they had left a cellphone on the kitchen counter. “I went outside to return it and as the car pulled away, I realised that there was no number plate.”
On returning to the house, he realised that several items had been stolen. “Two laptops and two rings were stolen from the outside flat, while jewellery, including a watch and all the items in my wife’s drawer, were gone.”
Although he reported the case to the police, no fingerprints were taken and there has been no follow up. “I got a case number and that appears to be that. There seems to be no attempt by the police to find these thieves - it seems like they are waiting for them to slip up rather than to do an investigation from their side.”
Several other home sellers have been caught out by the same group of women and one managed to capture footage on her home CCTV cameras. “It is the same group who are obviously targeting people trying to sell their home. One homeowner even gave them tea.”
Estate agents in Kimberley have warned that potential sellers should never allow anyone in their home unless they are accompanied by an agent. “Rather ask them to wait a few minutes while you contact the agent or even ask them to come back at a specific time. It may seem tempting to show them around as they look very interested and keen on the property but you are opening yourself up to become a potential target.”
The problem is not unique to Kimberley and national agents have reported that a for sale sign in front of a home can be an invitation to burglars and scammers.
“While you see a home for sale, they see a home that’s easy to access. This allows them to get their hands on easy to exploit items like credit card statements, jewellery and family heirlooms, while an agent talks about curb appeal. They can even tour your home with an invitation, identifying valuables in every room before they return to burgle your home,” one agent warned online.
She advised home sellers to take steps to protect their home, valuables, and family during the home sales process.
“Some of the most important steps you can take for safety during the sales process are removing and securing valuables, requiring appointments, pre-qualification and identification, and working with a professional agent who understands safety and security.”
Other advice for those inviting prospective buyers into their homes is to remove or lock away sensitive documents like credit card statements and vehicle titles; password protect or remove all computers and devices; remove prescription medications form medicine cabinets; remove guns and ammunition, which is another hot commodity for thieves; never leave money or credit cards at home; remove or lock up valuables; remove all family photos; check doors and windows after showings; keep everyone together and don’t allow people to split up; use security cameras and collect information from everyone who attends an open house; and never reveal personal information.