JOHANNESBURG Drivers: watch out for a new trend in car theft
A new trend in luxury car thefts – involving the targeting of victims through dealerships or social media – has been picked up by the South African Insurance Crime Bureau.
It involves fraudsters pretending to be employees of dealerships – in particular representatives from the service department or customer service.
People tend to expect a speedy reaction from companies when they complain in a public forum or on social media.
Victims are either identified by their information on record at the dealership, or through comments or complaints they post on social media or other websites. Some of the victims have also been people who have filed complaints directly with dealerships.
The customer is contacted by a syndicate member purporting to be someone from the dealership. They explain that they don’t want any negative publicity and will do whatever necessary not to inconvenience them and offer to fetch the car from the client’s home and take it in for repairs.
The syndicate member then makes an arrangement to pick up the car.
Only when the client contacts the dealership to find out what is happening with the car is it discovered that there was misrepresentation involved.
By that time the car is gone.
Hugo van Zyl, chief operating officer of the SAICB, said they currently have the details of 29 reported cases all bearing similarities and apparently carried out with the same modus operandi.
According to Van Zyl there could easily be more cases. The first incidents date as far back as April.
Van Zyl said his organisation has been working closely with the police, who have recently made five arrests directly linked with the syndicate in Gauteng.
“The suspects arrested are allegedly the individuals who collected the vehicles from the victims,” Van Zyl said.
He added that another six people were arrested in Botswana after they were found in possession of four of the stolen cars which they were taking to Zambia. One of them was also arrested in Zambia with a stolen car.
While the majority of the cases have been reported in Gauteng, there have also been similar incidents in Nelspruit, Rustenburg, Klerksdorp and Durban.
Asked how luxury car owners could protect themselves from being targeted by the scammers, Van Zyl said motorists should be aware that social media is being used by criminals, who are watching for posts they can use and target the writer.
Anyone with information on this crime can call the SAICB on 011 021-1432.