Police impersonation: What you should know
Brooklyn police station is currently investigating two cases of police extortion.
A significant increase in police extortion, otherwise known as police impersonation, cases have taken place over the past few months in Pretoria.
Specialised Security Services private investigator Mike Bolhuis said this type of crime is not new, but a surge has been recorded recently.
“This specific type of crime has been happening for more than 10 years, where criminals pose as SAPS officials to intimidate, influence and extort huge amounts of money from the public,” he said.
Brooklyn police station is currently investigating two cases of police extortion with one suspect using the alias Captain Alwyn Cloete and another Colonel Andrew Brown.
“We are currently investigating these cases, and are in the process of obtaining more personal information of these individuals. I know there are seven similar cases to these being investigated by the SAPS, but at Brooklyn, we have two,” said investigating officer, Sergeant Sammy Magwele from Brooklyn SAPS.
Bolhuis warns that the common modus operandi used by these impersonators look like this:
– Victims are put under the impression there is a pending criminal case against them and they are then prompted to pay to let the charges ‘go away’.
– Some of the victims were connected with escorts and contacted by ‘police’ afterwards. The victim’s contact number is then supplied to the extortionist/police impersonator.
– The miscreant will use different telephone numbers when contacting the victim to stay in contact with them and to demand extortion payments.
– Some of the victims had personal meetings with the SAPS impersonator to make cash payments. The norm for extortion payments is to have electronic payments.
– Should the victim decide not to pay the money, the ‘police official’ will threaten the victim with releasing embarrassing information to the victim’s friends, family or even employers.
– The victim, in a state of panic and fear, pays the ‘police official’. After the first payment, the victim is extorted for more money.
– The process repeats itself until the victim is left penniless.
– Some of the victims even borrow money from friends or family or apply for bank loans to facilitate the extortion.
– At this point the scammer has extracted enough money from the victim and moves on to the next victim.
– Victims of these scams often fear for their lives and the fact that there might be embarrassing information leaked to their families.
Bolhuis gives the following tips on how to avoid being a victim of ‘police’ extortion:
– Always make sure you have no open case dockets or cases against you.
– Confirm from which police station the ‘official’ is calling.
– Chances that a high-ranking police officer will phone you with regards to pending criminal cases are slim.
– Dockets are investigated by the SAPS detective branches and Specialist Investigation Units.
– In most instances, a true SAPS official will make contact on a Telkom line.
– After receiving a suspicious call, phone the police station in question and ask to speak to the commander. Ask as many details as possible from the perpetrator and follow-up with the police station in question.