VOLUNTEERS HOODWINKED BY SCAM ARTIST

(Please note – this is NOT a picture of the scam artist.)

On Thursday 12 December, two female Hospice volunteers (names withheld at their request) were ‘charmed’ out of thousands of rands worth of personal possessions – namely gold jewelry and Kruger Rands – by a young Indian man who seemingly bamboozled them with sweet talk and, no doubt, some clever ‘sleight of hand’.
It was during the load-shedding when the con artist, who they describe as a slick young man, probably aged about 30, walked into the Sedgefield Hospice Charity Shop. They were short-staffed at the time, so there weren’t so many eyes to keep a watch on the front shop. But even with that, they certainly had no suspicions that he was up to any misdeeds. He was chatty, and charismatic, saying how at this time of the year he and his colleagues did a lot for charities in the form of donations, especially of household linen.
“He actually handed us two pillows and some rolls of toilet paper as a donation for the shop,” one of the ladies later told us.
As the man conversed with the two women, he looked around the shop, choosing things to buy and bringing them to the counter. He suggested that a tally be kept and asked the ladies to let him know when he reached R500, claiming his friend was bringing money from Knysna as they had been unable to draw in Sedgefield because of the load-shedding.
Indeed, a while later he did get some money – they presumed from his friend – and paid the ladies, though he didn’t make any effort to take his purchases from the counter.
Instead, the man started a different line of conversation with them. “He began telling us how valuable certain coins were and how much he could give us for them,” the lady recalls, “ And then he asked about gold items which we might have to sell.”
The man then picked up a cufflink from the counter. He said it might be gold and asked if he could ‘test it’. When they agreed he produced a container of liquid and dropped the cufflink in. Whilst they all watched to see what would happen, he continued his smooth-talking, eventually convincing one of the ladies to take off her gold ring so he could put it into the container to compare. He explained that it would have to stay there for a while. Of course, she did what the nice man asked.
“In the meantime,” her friend told us, “He began looking at the coins in our float and said that he could give us a lot of money for some of them.” There followed a discussion about how valuable certain coins were. “I mentioned I had a Kruger Rand set which I wanted to sell and he offered me much more than I thought I could get,” the lady said, “In my stupidity, I got my husband to bring it to the shop. My friend also got some of her coins as well as some gold bangles.”
By this time, the man had them hanging on his every word, and firmly entwined in his circle of trust.
But then, the volunteer told us, the shop got busier, and they couldn’t give him their full attention. As he stood, supposedly waiting for them, he kept phoning his partner on his cell, asking him to bring some more cash.
“At one stage he left the shop to get the money from his partner,” the lady said.
But as all the goods he had bought – and indeed paid for – were on the counter, along with the box of Kruger Rands and the container of ‘gold test’ liquid, there was no need for them to feel suspicious about their new friend.
When he still hadn’t returned some time later they started feeling a little uneasy. They went to the counter and gingerly opened the box which had contained the Kruger Rand coins – they were gone.
Then they quickly checked the container with the liquid in. All the gold items that he had put in there to test had also disappeared – including the ring, gold bangles and gold coins.
“He never came back,” she told us, “He even left the items he had bought and paid for.”
On discussing the scam artist with the shopkeepers of adjacent shops, they heard that he had been there as well, but no-one else had suffered any loss.
The ladies have both since been to the local SAPS station and opened a case.
“I actually feel embarrassed to report this as we were two gullible old ladies that were conned by this very slick, young guy,” one of them told us, “But perhaps the public can be warned about this person and his modus operandi.”