For many first year students, starting university is their first time being away from home. It is these spaces where scammers take advantage of a students’ trusting attitude. By being aware of Hatfield’s scams and crime schemes, students are able to avoid potential incidents that can sour their first year experience.
The issue of adequate parking spaces is a problem in Hatfield, which gives rise to instances of vehicle related crimes. There is a high risk of items being stolen out of a vehicle or, in some cases, the vehicle is hijacked. Additionally, Captain Colette Weilbach of the Brooklyn SAPS, warns that “[…] students can also be fined for parking illegally”. Captain Weilbach advises students to make use of safer options such as the free park and ride facilities available at the sports grounds.
Cell phone robberies:
In 2018, a student lost his cell phone when he directed and drove with a motorist who asked for directions. At the garage, the motorist gave the student R100 to buy airtime and asked to use the student’s cell phone. When the student arrived after buying the airtime, the motorist had left with his cell phone. Pedestrians who publicly use their cell phones or any other electronics fall victim to street robberies. Captain Weilbach says that “gangs are often operating from vehicles to make a quick escape after they [steal a cell phone”. Students are encouraged to limit public usage of cell phones to avoid being labelled as potential targets.
This especially becomes relevant during test or exam weeks, where false prophets play on the emotions that students feel during this time. False prophets convince students to invest in prayers and various rituals in return for good performance in their exams. Upon asking the student to make various purchases for the rituals, the false prophets, who request to be left alone in the student’s accommodation, steal valuables in the accommodation and make an escape at the accommodation. Other times, the false prophets persuade students to think that there are evil spirits in their laptop and convince the students to put their laptops on the ground, close their eyes and raise their arms, after which the false prophets take the laptop. Other times, they play on emotional sentiments by offering to pray for sick family members or solve a personal problem. The Brooklyn SAPS urges students to rather make use of reliable counsellors and registered churches for prayers.
Falsified shop discounts:
Students who go out shopping for clothes at retail stores may fall victim to shopping discount scams that eventually end with the students losing their personal belongings to scammers. In past incidents, students get approached by an unknown woman who offers them a potential discount. The woman urges the student to try on various articles of clothing in the fitting room, and offers to look after their belongings. After the student makes their way out of the fitting room, the woman would have already disappeared with the student’s belongings.
In other instances, the woman will ask the student to give her their bank card and pin code mentioning that the student can only get the discount if the woman makes the payment on their behalf at the till. The student stands a certain distance away and the woman disappears with the student’s card. Captain Weilbach urges students to not fall for these scams as “stores will advertise sales and discounts and will never give individual discounts”.
Impersonation of police officers:
Scammers sometimes impersonate police officers in their ploy to obtain money. They will approach a victim and mention that they fit the description of a suspect that they are searching for. The victim is then asked to hand over their bank cards and pin code which the scammer will use to confirm the identity of the victim. The suspect then disappears with the victim’s bank cards, money, or personal belongings. Captain Weilbach reminds students that “police officers do not need a bank card or a pin code to confirm a person’s identification”.
False accommodation rentals:
Students who do not get granted placement in official university residences should be wary of private accommodation. When using advertisements to look for potential accommodation, parents and students are cautioned to be vigilant as scammers use these adverts to scam potential tenants. In some cases, the deposit that has been paid is for non-existent accommodation, the accommodation has been rented to someone else or the so-called owner was never the rightful owner. Captain Weilbach warns students to “make use of the university’s official accredited rental agents for private accommodation”. Scams are not set in stone and are subject to change and are therefore not limited to the ones mentioned in this article. Although scams become recurring, scammers become innovative in devising new ways to exploit people. Captain Weilbach states that the “Brooklyn SAPS want[s] students to have a safe academic experience” and urges students not to be trustworthy of strangers and be vigilant in all situations. Captain Weilbach advises a heightened sense of awareness of one’s surroundings when walking in public spaces and draws attention to the green routes that students can make use of when walking to and from campus.
Safety measures advised by Captain Weilbach when considering renting private accommodation:
- Ask family or friends that are living in Pretoria to check out the location of the property and to ensure that the property exists and complies with normal health and safety standards.
- Get the full name and ID number of the rental agent/owner and try to verify it.
- Do not send any money or personal information without meeting the landlord or property manager or without viewing the property.
- Be sceptical if the landlord or the agent claims to be out of the country and is unable to personally show you the property.
- Ask for a copy of the rental contract and obtain legal advice to verify its legality.
- Try to obtain references from previous tenants.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Anyone with information on crime can contact the Brooklyn police station at (012)366 1735/6, or Crime Stop on 08600 10111 or SMS Crime Line on 32211 or download the free MY SAPS app to report crime anonymously.