The Gauteng Provincial Police have urged South Africans to remain vigilant when organising meetings and dealings on social media platforms.
The cautionary warning comes after the recent arrest of a 38-year-old member of the South African National Air Force.
According to the provincial police, the member was arrested on Tuesday in connection with a case under investigation by the Loate police, in which two victims were kidnapped at gunpoint in Winterveldt, north of Pretoria.
The kidnapping took place in November 2022, after the pair responded to an online advertisement for a music mixer.
While in captivity, a substantial amount of money was transferred from their bank accounts to the Air Force member’s account.
Police said the officer was traced and arrested at his workplace on Tuesday, and was expected to appear before the Ga-rankuwa Magistrate’s Court today, alongside four other suspects that were arrested some time back on the same case.
Acting Provincial Commissioner of the police, Major General Tommy Mthombeni, in commending the team for their efforts, further pleaded with members of the public to always remain “vigilant and smart” when using online platforms.
Mthombeni said even though the fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) had brought insight on the e-commerce industry, as well as opportunities, this had also created a platform for criminals to target unsuspecting victims, especially those using e-hailing services and selling or buying products on social media, in particular Facebook Marketplace.
“This trend had become a point of concern for some time, especially in Loate and Rietgat policing precincts. As a result and in an effort to address this criminal trend, a task team of detectives were established in the Tshwane District to deal with these cases,” said the police.
Police provided a number of basic safety tips for members of the public to take heed of before buying or selling online.
These include to avoid communicating with buyers or sellers outside Facebook as far as possible as you can, and not to share personal information, such as banking details or physical address.
The public were also advised on researching the buyer or seller by visiting their private Facebook profile, and to remain cautious of profiles that were created only recently.
In the event of a meeting, however, police cautioned the public to ensure they arranged to meet in a public and well-lit area, or at the nearest police station.