Cape Town - A company calling itself TKL-online Revenue is under investigation by the police and the fraud department of local banks in Cape Town after hundreds of people were scammed out of thousands of rand.
Unsuspecting victims have lost amounts varying from R20 000 to as much as R200 000 in the alleged scam.
The National Consumer Commission (NCC) has advised people to be wary this time of the year and have cautioned people against falling for get-rich schemes.
NCC spokesperson Pheto Ntaba said people were often duped into fake investments led on WhatsApp Groups and websites.
“Once you suspect that you are being duped into joining a pyramid scheme, alert the authorities, including the NCC and the Financial Sector Conduct Authority.
“We have seen some pyramid schemes mushrooming and masquerading as either grocery stokvels, WhatsApp gifting/stokvels. Consumers find it difficult to distinguish between genuine investments and pyramid schemes: if the emphasis in the scheme is on recruiting more people in order to go up the hierarchy, you must know that this is not a legit investment business.”
The site said it was established in 2018 and was a comprehensive internet group that helped with external sales to provide online shopping.
A 24-year-old victim, who asked to remain anonymous, invested over R20 000, said he had been bamboozled to believe the cash would gain interest each time they invested an amount.
The man had reported the matter to Capitec bank’s fraud department and police.
The site had three Capitec bank accounts.
“This scam is greater than you can think. I only invested R20 000, but I have heard of people who used their homes and cars for collateral and even their pension and others over R200 000,” he said.
“There were three groups which were controlled by administrators who would encourage you to get an incentive when you put more money in, and we had to complete 16 tasks for the day. I was part of a group of 256 people, and you had to pay R300 to start with and draw a commission thereafter.
“A week ago, the site just went down, and the admin disappeared, and we could not access the cash. I immediately knew this was a syndicate.
“How is it possible that large amounts of money is being moved from those accounts, and why were these accounts even allowed to operate if it was not a registered business.”
Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi said they were investigating the complaint.
Capitec’s fraud department said they were aware of the incident, and the account was flagged as a syndicate account.
“It has been handed over to the relevant authorities for further investigation. We urge all victims who have been scammed by such schemes to open a case with the SAPS, if they have not done so already. We will cooperate with the SAPS in order for them to apprehend members of the syndicate.”
Another victim, aged 55, from Grassy Park, lost R12 000 and a friend of his R200 000.
He, too, had reported the matter but was unsuccessful in opening a case with police because he did not have his bank statement.
“The saddest part is that people used their homes and cars as collateral. I was only on the site for two weeks,” he said. “I am worried about the quiet victims now. They can become depressed. We began a support group for all of us victims.”
Attempts to reach one of the group admins were unsuccessful.
South African Risk Information Centre chief executive Nischal Mewalall said criminals preyed on people’s vulnerability.
“Criminals, therefore, prey on a victim’s trust, ignorance and even their greed. They see these schemes as an opportunity to make easy money in a short period of time. Criminals are now exploiting messaging platforms like WhatsApp to promote these schemes. The promoter promises high returns, which could not be achieved through conventional investment opportunities.
“Often high returns are paid initially, and then investors are lured into investing even more money. The promoter becomes unavailable and returns dry up, and the scheme collapses soon thereafter.”