Under false pretences

The economic downturn and resultant unemployment have resulted in increased crime. Scamsters have become more cunning and creative with a sudden increasing trend towards theft by “false pretence”. Fueling this is the emerging crimes such as cyber-crime and data theft which make the public even more vulnerable to such scams. Theft under false pretence is defined as “an act of untrue representation of facts by one party with the intent to defraud the owner of their property, resulting in the owner willfully giving the property away”. 

Now and again, service providers will post warnings to clients on trending scams. Recently, Tracker published a report on a new scam used by criminals to steal vehicles. The report stated that the scamsters give the victims impression that their vehicles’ tracking devices needed attention and once they are on site they would insist on a test drive or that repairs are completed at a fitment centre. They then steal or hijack the vehicle.

Other incidents reported include cases where individuals are defrauded of their newly purchased vehicles. The fraudsters pretend to be a representative of the motor dealer and give the victim the impression that the new car has a life-threatening manufacturing fault and must be returned to the dealership for repairs. The fraudsters offer to pick up the vehicle and, of course, the car is never returned.

 Given the above circumstances, will an insurance policy respond to a loss by false pretences? Unfortunately, theft under false pretence is considered non-accidental and although an unforeseeable event, is expressly excluded under the majority of insurance policies in South Africa. 

In the absence of insurance cover for these losses, the management of these risks is vital. 

Tips to follow should you come across such a situation: 

  • Check and verify the email address and contact numbers from which the request is received. The scamsters are unlikely to have the right service provider address or contact details. 
  • Vehicle Tracking and recovery companies will not request to test drive after installation. Do not allow anyone to test drive your vehicle; call the call centre number if unsure.
  • Never allow any unknown service providers to drive or take your vehicle away without verifying their identity.
  • When allowing people to test drive your vehicle, never let unknown persons be unaccompanied. Use live Whattsapp Tracking with a family member or work colleague to ensure that your location is tracked at all times