Scam artists are defrauding people who have been the victims of vehicle theft or hijacking.
Hugo van der Merwe, the national manager: assessing at MUA Insurance Acceptances, says the company has seen a number of cases where fraudsters have targeted policyholders whose vehicles have been stolen or hijacked.
“Shortly after reporting a stolen or hijacked vehicle to the South African Police Service (SAPS), a number of policyholders stated they were contacted by individuals posing as police officers. In each of these cases, the fraudster informed the policyholder that their stolen or hijacked vehicle had been recovered in a different province, or even in a neighbouring country. The policyholder is informed that they need to pay fees via electronic funds transfer or an electronic wallet to have their vehicle returned to them,” Van der Merwe says.
He says you should heed the following advice to avoid falling victim to this scam:
• Never pay a person who poses as a member of the SAPS and asks for a fee “to secure” the recovery or repatriation of your vehicle.
• If someone contacts you demanding such payment, try to obtain as much information about him or her as you can – name, rank, force number, station and contact number/s, and the name of his or her commanding officer. It is likely that, once you start asking these questions, the person will retract his or her “offer”.
• Insurance companies often appoint assessors to confirm the merits of claims involving theft. These assessors are in contact with SAPS investigating officers. Inform your assessor if you are contacted by someone who claims to be from the SAPS and demands a “recovery fee”. The assessor will be able to confirm whether your vehicle has, in fact, been recovered. Do not pay a fee if it has.
• If someone contacts you and demands payment for your recovered vehicle, contact your broker or the commander of the police station where you reported the theft of your car. The station commander will be able to ask the investigating officer whether your car has been recovered. Again, do not pay any fees.
• Only the officer who is investigating your case will contact you if your vehicle has been recovered.
According to the latest SAPS crime statistics, 16 717 vehicles were hijacked between April 2016 and March 2017 – that works out to an average of 46 vehicle-hijackings every day over that period.
Car hijacking increased by 14.5% nationally, with Mpumalanga (up 28.8%), KwaZulu-Natal (21.5%) and Gauteng (16.9%) recording the highest increases.
Aon South Africa says you should do the following to reduce your risk of being hijacked:
• Observe your surroundings and be cognisant of anything or anyone who looks out of place.
• Take note of a vehicle that seems to be tailing you.
• Do not pull into your driveway and wait for your gate to open. Have your gate remote handy and stay on the road while the gate opens. Close the gate immediately after entering your property.
• Do not leave your keys in the ignition while you open a gate manually. If possible, ask someone at home to be ready to open the gate for you when you arrive.
• Keep your driveway clear of shrubs, plants and bins that could provide a hiding place for criminals.
• If you feel uneasy or unsure when approaching your home, drive past your driveway and go to your nearest police station or a place where you feel safe. If you have a private security company, ask it to send someone to check your property.