14 March 2016 at 09:35am – By: Helen Bamford
Cape Town – Capetonians have been warned to be on the lookout for an infamous gang of professional beggars whose modus operandi involves pretending to have broken down on the side of the road and then flagging down passing motorists for petrol money.
The con artists, who have been dubbed the Kumars on social media, and who operate across the city, become extremely aggressive when money is not forthcoming.
Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel André Traut said a case of assault had been opened against two of the men who had sworn at, threatened and assaulted a security guard at the Long Beach Mall in Noordhoek last week.
The scamsters had parked their vehicle in a disabled parking bay at the mall and had started asking people for money.
Traut said according to the security officer, several members of the public had complained the two men had been verbally abusive towards them when they refused to hand over money.
When the security guard intervened he was assaulted.
“A case of assault was opened against the two and they were issued with a warning to appear in the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court,” Traut said.
The “Kumars” operate from Clifton, Camps Bay and Claremont to Hout Bay, Kenilworth and Table View.
Trevor Snyders, chairman of the Muizenberg Community Safety Initiative, said the con artists, four men and three women, were frequent visitors to Muizenberg and surrounds.
“They are relatively easy to spot – generally, near an intersection or on a busy road, a vehicle is strategically parked with the bonnet up, almost as if it has just broken down.”
Passing motorists were then stopped and asked for money.
“The story goes along the lines of: ‘We are from Durban on holiday and have never been to Cape Town before and our car has broken down. We have been told that it is the petrol pump (or other engine part) that needs replacing – once this is repaired, we will be able to return to Durban. As we don’t just want to take your money, we will give you some of our curry spices from Durban’.”
Snyders said local residents had become wise to the con artists and now phoned either the police or law enforcement. He said the vehicles were often found to be unlicensed and not roadworthy, with false number plates.
“Should they be confronted by law enforcement or (the police), the cars magically repair themselves and they drive off – until the next time.”
Snyders said the power to prevent the conmen from returning to an area lay with the residents.
“Do not give any money to them; call law enforcement or (the police); inform others in the area of their action or intentions; photograph and post to Facebook as a warning/alert to others and generally, make them feel unwelcome to an area.”
People have been posting warnings.
In January a post from Kenilworth said: “Watch out for the con-people in our neighbourhood. They park a dilapidated car in a spot where people pass by and then flag down drivers or stop pedestrians to ask for money to get help. The car is an old white skedonk… quite pushy and not wanting to take no for an answer.”
Another read: “Kumars at it again, in Rondebosch. Just scammed someone into giving them money. Driving light blue old car.
And last week: “The Kumars are out in Claremont today, sporting a new car.”
André Blom, chairman of the Fish Hoek community police forum, said the syndicate was extremely persistent and often targeted women. He said the group used about 10 different cars.
“All we can do is watch them and monitor them and then try to get the police.”