IT’S an old scam that surprisingly still catches its victims hook, line and sinker.
The characters — perpetrators and victims — might be different but the script is always the same on the streets of Bulawayo.
As the saying goes; ‘if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.’
The scammers, usually soft-spoken and well-dressed individuals, pounce on unsuspecting job seekers with the promise of well-paying part time jobs that involves, but not limited to, unloading boxes from a vehicle, cleaning an empty shop or warehouse and packing groceries on a supermarket shelf.
Nomalanga Masina lost R200 and US$5 to a stranger she had just met along 9th Avenue and George Silundika Street, after being promised a part-time job of offloading boxes from a vehicle owned by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).
The scammer claimed the boxes contained food aid that was meant to be distributed to the less privileged in western suburbs in Bulawayo.
“I was on my way to LSU (Lupane State University) offices at the NRZ Building to meet a relative when I met this guy and he asked me if I could give him directions to the World Vision offices.
“He said that he also wanted assistance with offloading some boxes from his vehicle. He said the boxes contained food aid for the less-privileged,” narrated Masina to our sister paper Chronicle in 2021.
The two would soon be joined by a second man, who feigned to have overheard their conversation about offloading boxes from a vehicle.
“The other guy first apologised for eavesdropping and said he also wanted to help offload the boxes. At this point the two men were pretending not to know each other and the guy that had first approached me said he would pay us US$50 to help him offload the boxes,” she said.
The two were asked to put their belongings in two separate envelopes for safekeeping as the NGO would not be held liable in case they lost their stuff while offloading the boxes.
“I put the money that I had on me into an envelope and the other guy did the same. The man who had promised us the part time job dropped something and asked me to pick it up for him,”.
Unbeknown to her, the few seconds it took for her to pick up the item was the perfect opportunity the conman was looking for.
“He handed back my envelope saying there was no need for him to hold onto it and that I should put it my bag and we walked to the car to start offloading the boxes. The other guy was also handed back the envelope with his belongings.
“After a while, he said he was going around the corner and asked us to watch the vehicle and not let anyone go near it lest they steal the boxes inside,” she said.
According to Masina, the other guy she had been “employed” with excused himself to buy a cigarette and promised to be back shortly.
The scam had been completed.
Waiting in vain for the two men to return, the victim of the job scam found herself standing next to the Toyota pickup in the hope her part time employer would resurface, but at the same time, hit with an urge to check the envelope containing her belongings.
The R200 and US$5 had been replaced with pieces of scrap paper.
She opened a case at the Bulawayo Central Police Station under case number IR 4254-20
Bulawayo Central Police Station
More and more people are falling victim to job scammers whose modus operandi differ from victim to victim but the results are always the same – loss of money and property to the perpetrators.
Police have long warned members of the public not to hand over their belongings to strangers even after being promised a job. — @RaymondJaravaza.