Abusing the good hearts and trust of the vulnerable elderly in Sabie, swindling them out of life savings and leaving them devastated, is causing great concern and outrage amongst the community.
Thelma Hawkes, a 91-year-old Sabie resident who recently lost her husband, is a victim of this cold and calculating crime. A case of fraud has been laid at the Sabie police after the elderly widow lost R18 100 to a heartless person, posing as an official from Thaba Chweu Local Municipality.
Hawkes said that she received an anonymous telephone call from a “contractor”, claiming to be associated with TCLM, on Tuesday, July 11. The person stated that TCLM officials will visit her home to replace an electric prepaid meter and to repair the solar panels on the roof. The “contractor” arrived at her house, with a meter box in hand and assured Hawkes that her late husband supposedly “spoke” to the contractor, before he passed away.
The “contractor” boldly went through the house supposedly to “inspect” if all the plugs were compatible with the new prepaid meter. After the “inspection”, Hawkes was told that the total cost for installing the new prepaid meter and solar panels would cost a crippling R18100. She only had R2600 cash on her and said that the remaining balance, R15500, would be paid electronically, but the “contractor” insisted that he only accepted cash.
“He went to the bank with me and I withdrew the other R15,500. The thief refused to accept the money inside the bank when I tried to hand it over. He said he couldn’t take the money because people were watching and we might get robbed. He only took the money when we were inside my car,” said Hawkes.
Her suspicions grew after a failed attempt by her granddaughter to locate the contractor’s company online. It didn’t exist.
“I am sure there must be inside informants who have specific facts like my husband’s name and that he passed away, that assisted the crooks. I’m elderly now and have no cash. I seriously cannot understand how anyone can do this to another human being. The bank made a copy of his ID card, and I really hope and pray that they will catch them. It cannot be someone working alone,” Hawkes said.
According to Hawkes, there have been other similar crimes committed in Sabie. GPS News received another call from a distraught elderly resident, who suffered the similar ordeal. She was robbed of more than R7000.
SAPS Sabie has been asked for comment, but were not available to comment at the time of going to press.
The Thaba Chweu Local Municipality spokesperson confirmed that there’s no project to replace prepaid meters. A word of caution was extended to residents not to allow anyone access into their homes without prior confirmation. Those who have encountered such a problem can contact GPS News’ Editor, Valerie Kemp on 013 764 3127, as this will assist other residents to be more vigilant when confronted with such a situation.