The Insurance Crime Bureau (ICB) has recently issued a vehicle recall scam alert following a resurgence in the number of cases, while blue light hijackings are also on the rise again in South Africa, with Dialdirect Insurance urging vehicle owners to be vigilant.
“Criminals execute a recall scam by contacting unsuspecting vehicle owners while posing as officials representing a car manufacturer. They convince the owners that their vehicle is part of a batch being recalled due to some or other malfunction or mechanical issue,” said Anneli Retief, head of Dialdirect Insurance.
“With the promise of a repaired or replacement vehicle, many people buy into this scam and end up losing tens, or even hundreds of thousands of rands.”
The ICB said that initial contact is normally made telephonically, where a criminal posing as an official informs victims that their vehicle is being recalled.
This is often followed up with a spoof e-mail to make arrangements to collect the vehicle with a tow truck. Several days later, the owner would typically phone the dealership for an update, only to discover that the vehicle has in fact been stolen.
Dialdirect and the ICB offer the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:
- Limit the amount of personal information you share on social media and telephonically. Criminals use this to build a detailed profile of their victims.
- Be vigilant and maintain a healthy sense of scepticism when talking to strangers. Make every effort to verify that they are indeed who they say they are and that they are an employee of the company they claim to represent.
- Check with the manufacturer and/or dealership directly to verify that the recall is legitimate. Don’t trust the contact details provided by the person who called you.
- It is very unlikely that the manufacturer will send a tow truck to collect your vehicle – in most cases, they will expect you to bring your vehicle to them.
- Report any suspicious calls to the authorities, the manufacturer and/or the dealership.
Recall scams aside, Dialdirect, through its claims data, said it has also noticed that that higher value vehicles in South Africa are being targeted in hijackings.
“This spike in high-value vehicle hijackings over the last three months is largely attributed to syndicate operations using the blue light robbery technique,” said Retief.
What is the blue light robbery technique?
This refers to a modus operandi where criminals impersonate law enforcement officials to commit hijackings – a method otherwise known as blue light robberies.
If you are in such a situation, where an unmarked vehicle with a flashing blue light is trying to force you to pull over, you should immediately switch on your emergency or hazard lights to acknowledge the person trying to pull you over, indicate that they should follow you and drive to the nearest police station or a busy public area.
What to do following the theft of your vehicle
- If you have a vehicle-tracking device installed, immediately call your tracking company to report the theft.
- Report it to the SAPS and file a stolen vehicle report within 48 hours.
- Make sure you have the vehicle details: model, colour, vehicle identification, and registration numbers, etc. available to assist with the identification and recovery of the vehicle.
- Report your claim to your insurance company. If your vehicle is stolen after hours, call your insurance company on the next working day.
“Covid-19 lockdown regulations seem to have done little in the way of curbing vehicle theft, with the South African Police Services reporting 4,513 carjackings in the first quarter of this year – an increase of 4.9% compared to the first quarter of 2020.
“Always be alert, don’t trust too easily, and always remember that your life is more valuable than your possessions,” said Retief.