Anne Govender, 33, of Phoenix, had planned a weekend getaway with her husband, two children and relatives for March and paid a R700 deposit, only to learn she had been scammed.
“I saw the post on the Phoenix Classifieds page on Facebook and was drawn to the photographs and the reasonable price. I called the advertised number but there was no response, so I sent a WhatsApp message. The man responded saying he was a pastor and was busy. He promised to call me later but continued to message me.
“To complete the booking, he forwarded an application form on a Seabreeze Holiday Lettings letterhead. It had the accommodation’s address, an email address and the contact numbers. It looked legitimate and I made an EFT payment the same day.”
Shortly thereafter, she learnt about the online scam and came across an article cautioning people about fake letting agents.
The holiday advert she had seen on Facebook was subsequently removed and her calls to the man went unanswered.
“However, he responded to my messages and sent an affidavit, which stated he was the owner of the address and would return my money.”
She has been waiting two weeks and her R700 deposit was not refunded. This prompted her to open a fraud case.
Another holiday-seeker, who declined to be named, paid R1400 for a weekend getaway to Ballito, allegedly with the same person, only to learn it was a private residential address.
The 36-year-old mother of two, of Newlands West, said the man had promised to meet her and her husband at a mall to resolve the problem.
Hours had passed and the couple, who did not want to disappoint their children, was left with no choice but to seek alternate accommodation.
This set them back R3600.
She said the man messaged that evening and claimed he had to return home as his wife was involved in accident.
“He said he would reimburse us, and give us R1000 more for the inconvenience. But to date, nothing has been deposited into our banking account. We hope he is nabbed and our money returned.”
The property’s owner said she had around 10 families arrive at her doorstep over a weekend.
“Some of them were upset. The man had told them his wife would let them in and they assumed it was me. Luckily our security had things under control.”
One family, she said, had travelled from Johannesburg after renting out the accommodation for a week.
“This has been my home for seven years. This man is sending out a fraudulent affidavit stating my home belongs to him. That’s why I opened a case against him.”
Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said a case of fraud is being investigated.
The man could not be reached for comment on the number he provided to both women.
The chief executive of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, said that before making a booking, holiday makers must check a company’s credibility.
“First, any legitimate holiday accommodation would have a website, where you can view the hotel, bed and breakfast or a guest house. Also check for a business registration number.
“You also need to check that they are affiliated to a local tourism organisation or a cluster of accommodation, such as the Durban tourism board, a guest house association or the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa, to name a few. Don’t be fooled by the pictures as anyone can find nice-looking pictures off the internet. Make sure to do all your quality checks.”