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FSA warns against fraud of so-called “police officers”
So-called “police officers” calling farmers about their stolen livestock and property which has been recovered are still operating in the Free State. According to Dr Jane Buys, Security and Risk Analyst at Free State Agriculture (FSA), there are 17 towns or areas in the province that since the start of this year fell victim to this. They are Bethulie, Bloemfontein, Brandfort, Clarens, Cornelia, Dealesville, Dewetsdorp, Glen, Heilbron, Hennenman, Koffiefontein, Rosendal, Springfontein, Theunissen, Viljoenskroon, Virginia and Winburg.
According to the VKB FSA Safety Desk’s information, the complainant is contacted by an “official or officer” only a few hours or even days after a case has been reported, stating that his or her property has been recovered. The farmer must then pay a certain amount, usually between R800 and R10 000, for example at a bank, supermarket or e-wallet so that the animals or property can be retrieved and returned.
“The so-called officer sounds very credible. He or she also mentions the investigator’s details, details about the property or the type marking on the livestock, number of cattle stolen and has knowledge of the case that occurs only on the MAS system,” says Buys.
The “officer” contacts police stations telephonically to obtain case numbers, complainants’ details, as well as other information. According to Buys, all of this is confidential information.
FSA requested the South African Police Service (SAPS) in February 2018 to send an internal communication to all its stations in the Free State. This must advise police officers not to give confidential information on cases to any “police officer” before it can be verified whether the particular person is in fact a police officer.
According to Buys, this warning to farmers is applicable to cattle, as well as stolen vehicles and farm implements, which are apparently recovered.
“No police officer will request the public or a farmer to pay any money to recover stolen property,” she says. A farmer will probably be contacted by the investigating officer of his or her case and not just by another other officer.
Perhaps related to these criminals
It may be possible that this scam is related to a criminal who is active from inside prison.
Buys says there were two cases in the Bethlehem area where the person attempted to buy two farms. He sends people to go ahead with the business, “pay” the money into the bank account that has not yet reflected and the next morning trucks arrive to load cattle because the farm has apparently already been sold.
Buys says the SAPS in the Free State was asked to launch a formal investigation into this matter and a national investigation will also be requested, as it appears that this specific scam is also being carried out across provincial borders.