20 Durban residents up in arms after losing at least R16 000 each in housing scam, Newsline

20 Durban residents up in arms after losing at least R16 000 each in housing scam

Durban – A group of more than 20 prospective tenants claim to have become victims of fraud after they were “scammed” R16000 each in the hope they would be allocated affordable rental flats in the Durban CBD.

The prospective tenants paid cash to a woman (whose name is known to the Sunday Tribune) who was employed by First Metro Company (FMHC) which owns and rent flats across Durban. The money was meant to cover rent for three months, a parking disk and admin fees.

But due to lockdown, their “application” was put on hold and the woman informed them to return when the situation was back to normal.

However, on their return on June 15 they found that the woman had resigned. They have opened a case of fraud against her.

Edward Mbara said the woman requested payments be made in cash at FMHC offices in Gillespie Street.

“I made an initial payment of R16000 in cash, to the letting administrator, at the company offices.

“According to her, this sum was a cost to open a code that is on a computer which is at the company’s head office in Johannesburg, without which the flat cannot be allocated.

“Concerned by this, I made frantic efforts to reach the management of FMHC to confirm the authenticity of the demand for the code fee.

“I was informed that they have paid that fee as well. The lady insisted that it was a new management policy. Failing to get official confirmation, I hopelessly paid the money. She said a receipt was normally not given for opening the computer code. When I asked her about the company bank details, she insisted that the money be paid to her in cash and that it’s a new company policy,” he said.

Mbara only had a receipt with the company letterhead as proof that he paid the money. He said an application form was also issued to him which he also returned to the company’s offices.

“When FMHC reopened for business, I went to complete my application process, but unfortunately, the lady had resigned. I have made a series of efforts to reach her on her phone but she was not picking up calls.”

Leetone Faro said she had paid over R25000 in phases. She said the woman initially asked for R30 000.

“I could not pay all the money at the same time because it was too much. I started paying her last year and she had promised I would get a flat in April. There was no reason to doubt her since she worked for the company and we would visit her at the office,” she said.

Stanley Gwala, FMHC Risk Manager, admitted the woman worked for the company. He said she resigned after the company launched an investigation into her conduct.

Gwala said the number of complaints was growing.

“We had launched our own investigation and she opted to resign to avoid questioning. We have no idea of her whereabouts. We have handed all information to the police who are investigating this matter. We urged people to follow proper procedures to apply for accommodation. There is no way the company can ask people to pay in cash.”

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala confirmed that a case of fraud was opened.

Sunday Tribune