False prophets

This involves a victim who is approached by individuals who claim to have been given “divine instruction” to pray for them. The scammer then requests that the victim leaves their property with them and is instructed to buy water for the “purification process”. Upon the victim’s return, the so-called prophets have disappeared, along with the victim’s belongings. According to security services, women are most likely to be targeted by these scams.


A scammer approaches their target on the street and inform them that they work for a company called “Avon”. The individual then explains to the intended victim that they can earn some money by assisting with a stock take of goods. A second individual, a “passer-by”, is then also pulled aside and briefed on the story and agrees to it.

The victim and “passer-by” are then requested to hand over all electronic devices such as tablets, cell phones and laptops for “verification purposes” while they are working with the “Avon” products. The items are then taken to be “marked” and subsequently never returned. The victim and “passer-by” then split up with only the victim reporting the theft, indicating that the “passer-by” is also part of the scam in order to gain the victim’s trust.

The “drug dealer” scam

An individual approaches a potential target and begins a light conversation with them. The scammer then requests the victim’s phone in order to send a “please call me”. The swindler then produces a white bag of powder that he alleges to be cocaine. After instructing the victim to look after the “cocaine”, the swindler usually walks away with the victim’s phone, never to be seen again. The “cocaine” then turns out to be baking powder or flour.

The “police” scam

The intended victim is approached by individuals in a vehicle. The occupants of the vehicle identify themselves as South African Police Service officers.

The occupants tell a story of a robbery, and the victim is urged to enter the vehicle. Upon entering, they are asked a series of questions regarding their banking details that they then have to write on a piece of paper, and they are the instructed to hand over their bank card.

One of the occupants of the vehicle then takes the piece of paper and bank card and places it in an envelope that is then sealed. The victim is given the envelope, and upon exiting the car, the vehicle drives off. When the victim opens the envelope, they find a blank royalty card (such as clothing store gift cards) which was switched in place of their bank card.

“These swindlers are very good at what they do as their livelihood depends on scamming victims out of their property,” stated Rowan Watson, manager of investigations at the department. Although the department could not divulge any statistics on how many students have been affected, it mentioned that these scams took place both on and off campus in the Hatfield area.

“The Department of Security Services would advise that students not speak to strangers and do not hand over any electronic items … to any person they do not know,” says Linda Meyer, an investigating officer at the department.

Colin Fouché, director of the Department of Security Services, urges students not to confront these scam artists but rather to immediately report any such incident to security services. Fouché also requests that students not use their student cards to swipe in other individuals, as this is how people gain unauthorised access onto campus.

Fouché says that avoiding such incidents is better than dealing with the consequences, saying, “prevention is always better than cure”.

Students are urged to report any incidents to the 24-hour Campus Security phone line at 012 420 2310, or 24-hour Operational Management at 083 654 0476. Contact details for the department are also available on the reverse side of all student cards.

Image: Shen Scott

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