The South African Police Service has warned of a new tactic hijackers are using to steal cars, which puts second-hand car dealerships and private sellers in particular at risk.
The warning comes amid reports of second-hand motor dealerships and private sellers being approached by ‘prospective clients’, who take the cars for a test drive and are then subsequently ‘hijacked’.
According to the SAPS, in one of the incidents, suspects pretended to be buyers and requested a test drive in a bakkie. They were then accompanied by the salesperson of the dealership.
During the test drive, the suspects suddenly stopped at a deserted road, pointed a firearm at the victim, instructed him to get out of the bakkie and drove off.
The dealership had no information available on the alleged clients.
“Dealerships are requested to ensure they have a signed indemnity form completed by the prospective client, that includes a copy of their identification document/motor vehicle licence/ thumb-print, before granting a test drive,” the SAPS said.
“Police in the province would also like to urge members of the community to be careful when they respond to online advertisements especially for livestock and vehicle sales.”
In another incident, a potential client saw an advertisement for a Toyota Avanza vehicle on Facebook. He phoned the seller and arranged to meet him. During the first meeting, it was agreed that the buyer will pay cash and first test-drive the vehicle.
He returned later the same day, accompanied by three friends. When meeting the seller, the seller and his friends were surrounded by a group of about 14 people, armed with firearms and pangas.
They were robbed of a substantial amount of cash and their personal items such as cellphones were stolen, before being allowed to leave the scene, the SAPS said.
“The public is once more warned to exercise caution when responding to online advertisements and to avoid becoming victims.”
The SAPS issued the following crime prevention tips:
- Don’t meet strangers at your home or in strictly residential areas. Instead, meet in a nearby shopping area, a grocery store, fast-food restaurant parking lot or at the Police Station. Make sure the area is busy and filled with lots of people. Daytime is better. If you must meet after dark, make sure the area is well lit and there are lots of people around;
- It’s a good idea to bring a friend, or even two. Let other friends or family know of your plans. Have them check on you at a specific time after the meeting if you don’t call them first;
- Be sure to have your cellphone with you;
- If you are selling/buying something and become suspicious of the buyer/seller for any reason, don’t let them in your car but leave immediately. For example, don’t be afraid to say: “I’m sorry I wasted your time. Something has come up and I need to leave right now. Again, I’m sorry. Bye.” And leave. Your safety is more important than being polite;
- Do not carry a large amount of cash with you, and to leave immediately if the advertised product is not at the agreed place;
- If you are robbed, give the suspects the property they demand; your life is more valuable than your property.