The SMS Mr Maghvelana received confirming the delivery date and time of his vehicle. He waited for hours, until he managed to track down the Xolani he had spoken to previously. It was then, Maghvelana said, that Xolani told him his money was gone.
Few things are worse than that sinking feeling you get when you realize that you have been conned out of your hard-earned money.
This is exactly the feeling a local resident experienced after reacting to an advertisement in the Zoutpansberger’s sister publication, the Limpopo Mirror.
A company, advertising itself as Taxis & More, lures people into phoning them with great deals on taxis, 4x4s and luxury vehicles. “Blacklisted welcome in-house finance,” reads the advertisement, among other things. It also contains the contact details of two persons, namely Xolani (076 149 6174) and George (073 526 1444).
Mr Sunnyboy Maghvelana (31) of Louis Trichardt was one of the people who reacted to the advertisement, forking out R21 600 as deposit on what was to be his dream car, a 2015 Toyota Hilux 2.5 D4D double cab with only 31 000km on the odometer.
“I saw the ad in the newspapers and I phoned the people. They said they were in Sasolburg and sent through a bunch of documents by email that I needed to complete. I spoke to a Xolani. He said I must pay R20 000 as a deposit and a R1 600 delivery fee,” said Maghvelana.
The documents Maghvelana received were under the letterhead of BBCCC Commercial Motortrader CC of 21 Riemland Road, Sasolburg, with landline 011 069 2085. On 25 October, Maghvelana also received a bunch of pictures from Xolani to show him the bakkie he was purchasing.
Maghvelana completed the documentation, sent it back to the return e-mail address of email@example.com and paid the R21 600 on 27 October. The following day he received an SMS from Xolani, confirming the delivery date and time.
“When I paid the deposit on 27 October, he told me that I must wait here at my work the next day [28 October] from 14:30 to 15:30 as my car would be delivered at my work place. I waited here until 19:00. When I phoned him, he did not answer. I then used another phone with a different number to phone Xolani, and acted like someone else wanting to buy a car. When I asked him where is my vehicle, he said I can do what I want, the money is gone!” Maghvelana tried reversing the transaction at his bank, but it was too late. “The people at the bank told me that I must first report the matter to the police, before they can do anything,” said Maghvelana.
Maghvelana reported the matter to the Makhado police. He also contacted the newspaper to voice his unhappiness about the advertisement.
The newspaper started an investigation of its own into Taxis & More and BBCCC Commercial Motortraders. A company search through South Africa’s Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CPIC) revealed that no such company was registered with them. A Google Maps search also indicated that no such business was situated at 21 Riemland Road in Sasolburg. The newspaper also phoned the landline number listed on the BBCCC Commercial Motortraders documentation, but the call remained unanswered.
During the newspaper’s investigation, it was astounding to see how much effort these fraudsters put into their scam to make it work and look legitimate. An Internet search showed that BBCCC Motortraders has its own website, as well as a Facebook page.
It was, however, only when the newspaper dug a bit deeper that it became more and more apparent that this is a very-well-thought-out scam. The BBCCC website turned out to be a “mirror” site and all initial website data had been removed. The website was created only on 17 October, while the BBCCC Facebook page was only created on 18 October. The Facebook page only indicates that BBCCC updated their profile picture. There was no history of posts, nor were there any new posts.
The newspaper managed to track down the creator of the BBCCC website, a Mr Vince Sativ of Graphyx City in Johannesburg.
Sativ initially indicated that he was not Mr Sativ. When it was pointed out that all his details as website creator were listed under the ZACR Whois website, an organisation that manages websites, he changed his story and admitted that he had indeed created the website. When the newspaper informed him that the website formed part of a scam, he said that he was not aware of that, but that he would immediately contact BBCCC Motortraders and that he would tell them that he would remove the site. Sativ was reluctant to give the newspaper the contact details of BBCCC Motortraders. When asked why his business, Graphyx City, was also not registered with the CPIC, Sativ claimed that he was still at school and was only doing websites as a side-line. The call to Sativ was placed on Monday. By Wednesday, the BBCCC site had yet to be taken down.
“We get very annoyed when advertisers use our trusted media to try and swindle people out of their money. We try to screen adverts before placement, checking whether these adhere in all respects to the Advertising Standards Authority of SA’s code. Throughout the years, we have refused many adverts. On the odd occasion, however, it becomes difficult to spot the fraudsters,” said Anton van Zyl, owner of the Zoutnet group of newspapers.
Van Zyl explained that the Taxis & More advert had been emailed to their office, followed up by phone calls. The adverts were paid for upfront, using electronic bank transfers. He added that contact details were provided and that, at face value, everything seemed legitimate. “When we became aware of the possible fraudulent activities the past week, we immediately started to make the necessary inquiries. We also placed any further adverts from this client on hold. Added to this, our editorial team was asked to follow up and report on the issue, so as to warn more potential consumers and make them aware of what may be happening,” said Van Zyl.
Residents are warned that Xolani, Taxis & More and BBCCC Commercial Motortraders (whatever the name may be) are still active and taking deposits from people. Xolani indicated this week that they would like to continue advertising in the newspaper and even paid for their advertisements upfront. When the newspaper informed him that we are using a “new booking system” and that more of his personal information was needed, such as a copy of his ID, he responded by e-mailing through a copy of another man's ID, indicating that this was his supervisor. The newspaper’s initial investigation indicated that such a person does indeed exist, but chances are very good that it is a case of identity fraud.
It is unclear how many other people have fallen prey to this scam. Maghvelana’s case was registered under case number 263/10/2017 at the Makhado SAPS and the investigating officer is Constable T Mavhungu.
Date:20 November 2017 - By: Andries van Zyl
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.