UPDATE 23 MARCH 2016: I’ve been contacted by someone who wants to do an exposé on the company I wrote this blog post about, and they’ve asked me to see if I can find anyone else who’s had a bad experience with them, to build up some case studies. Please share widely, and get in touch with me via the comments on this post if you have any info. Thanks!
In the hope that someone else can avoid being scammed out of their hard earned money, here’s the tale of a couple of con artists to avoid.
It begins on the 26th of December, when I contacted a few advertisers on Gumtree enquiring about furniture removal prices and availability. One of them was a company called Removals RSA which responded on the 28th with the best price, which of course we are all inclined to immediately accept. I replied to “Lindi” that I would confirm with her the following week, but she immediately texted me asking for my details so that the move could be booked and confirmed, as it was a load share – hence the good quote – but I would lose out if I didn’t book straight away. “Lindi” emailed me the confirmation and her banking details, asking for a 50% deposit, which I duly paid on the 29th. I then needed to postpone my move due to personal circumstances, and that’s when the fun really began…
I texted “Lindi” on the 2nd or 3rd of January explaining this, that I would need my deposit back, and that when I was ready for the move I would contact her again. No reply. On Monday the 5th I emailed asking if she’d received my text, to which she replied she hadn’t. So I replied on email with the details, also providing my bank details for the return of my deposit.
By the 9th I had still not had not heard anything so I emailed her again. On the 10th she replied that she would be sending me the “paperwork to complete for the deposit” within 24 hours – which of course she did not do. It finally came through on the 12th, because apparently she “was on leave as well for a couple of days”. Now this form was interesting… I hadn’t needed to sign anything to confirm my booking, but I did have to sign to cancel, and my deposit would be returned to me “within 30 days” of my signature. Bear in mind that 10 days had already passed since I’d notified her of my cancellation, so in essence this now became 40 days.
I naturally kicked up a bit of a fuss, but it was to no avail, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would simply have to wait. And wait I did…
On the 12th of February I sent an email with a “gentle reminder” that this was day 30 since I had signed the cancellation, and I received a reply that “Lindi” had received my email and sent it on to the bookkeeper to remind her about the payment, and that she would send me proof of payment once it was done.
Let me just say: HAHAHAHAHAHA! Yeah, that was clearly a joke.
From that point on, “Lindi” no longer answered my phone calls nor my emails. On the 19th my man called her from his phone, and she promised the payment would be done by the end of the week (which was the following day, Friday the 20th).
Guess what? Yup. Nothing.
So the following week, we dusted off our best sleuthing caps and got to work. The only information we had was “Lindi’s” name (no surname), the company name, her cell number, and two cell numbers which I had previously got off their website (which has been “under construction” for a couple of weeks now).
We first Googled Removals RSA, which brought up a number of their ads on Gumtree, OLX and JunkMail. It also brought up two complaints on Hello Peter, here and here. So now I had no doubt about their scamminess, and we also had another name – Jaco.
We then Googled the three cell numbers we had, and oh boy, this is where things really started getting interesting. These folk have been advertising on the above three platforms, and others, from about July 2014 as far as I can tell, under the following company names…
Removals South Africa
Eden Furniture Removals
Nationwide Courier Services
CTS Budget Furniture Removals
Southern Peninsula Furniture Removals
Muizenberg Furniture Removals and Storage
Kwa Zulu Natal Furniture Removals
Jakaranda Furniture Removals
Freestate Furniture Movers
…using the following cell numbers…
072 078 8125
079 787 9011
071 513 7732
072 456 5880
071 513 7625
…and the following email addresses…
We then did a Whois lookup on the domain name removalsrsa.co.za, from where we got the web host’s name and cell number. I called the guy and asked if he knew “Lindi’s” surname, and he told me he doesn’t know who that is, he deals with the owner, one Elize Theron. I asked if he could give me her number, and blow me down if it wasn’t the same one used by “Lindi”, 072 078 8125.
Wow, the lengths people will go to! At this point I was ready to lay a criminal charge against Elize Theron, but first, I shared the above information with Gumtree, OLX and JunkMail. OLX have so far been the only ones to respond, saying they have blocked all the phone numbers, email addresses and IP addresses from advertising on their site, and would provide said IP information to the police if required to do so.
I’m guessing that by now Ms Theron and her co-conspirators had got wind of our activities, either via the fact that they can no longer advertise on OLX, and/or the web hosting guy who could well have told her I’d called him making enquiries (I used my name). The only reason I’m making this assumption is that yesterday, finally, one Mr Albrecht Theron AWG transferred my deposit back to me from his Capitec account.
So I got very lucky in this instance, but I almost get goosebumps thinking of the number of other people Elize and Albrecht have ripped off, and who have no recourse because these cons are covering their tracks well enough for the average Joe not to be able to find them.
Please share this far and wide, and let’s shut these guys down. They don’t only operate in my home town of KZN as you can surmise from the company names they’re using – we still aren’t sure where they are even located, but it seems to be either the Western Cape somewhere, or Roodepoort, or possibly between the two.
And to end off, this is yet another reason to be very, very careful when buying and selling online. I’m not talking about trusted sites and brand names, but situations like this where you can’t necessarily verify who you’re dealing with. From a personal perspective going forward, I will gladly pay more than the “best quote” if I am unable to get validation of who the “best quote” provider is.
Good luck out there!