By Nqobile Tshili
Fraudsters are on the loose in Bulawayo mainly targeting Diasporan home seekers whom they dupe into buying incomplete houses and residential stands that do not belong to them.
The fraudsters allegedly create fake national identity cards and match them with correct information on the council’s asset register before selling the properties.
It is not clear how the fraudsters access details of people’s stands or incomplete houses and this has created fears that some council employees could be involved in the scam.
Bulawayo City Council senior public relations officer Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said the BCC does not disclose individuals’ property details to members of the public.
“The council policy is that information regarding individuals’ title deeds is not under any circumstances released to members of the public,” said Mrs Mpofu.
Bulawayo acting police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube yesterday confirmed the fraudulent practice saying it involves some unregistered estate agents.
He said the police suspect that the housing fraud scheme could be run by a syndicate as some of them are involved in the creation of fake national identity cards.
“We have noted with concern that several home seekers are losing substantial amounts of money to fraudsters in the process of buying houses or residential stands. These fraudsters mainly target Diasporans who would be in the country for a short period especially during holidays,” said Insp Ncube.
“What we have observed and established so far is that these fraudsters will search for information on a particular stand or a house under construction.
“Upon getting details of the incomplete house or residential stand owners, they will manufacture fake national identity cards and create fake title deeds for the said properties in the process defrauding unsuspecting home seekers.”
He said a lot of people were losing their hard currency to these fraudsters and over the weekend someone lost US$8 000.
Insp Ncube did not provide details of how the home seeker was defrauded. However, he disclosed that the syndicate uses the same modus operandi.
“Diasporans are the most affected in this fraud scheme. They avoid following the longer route of registering their names on the council waiting list. And these fraudsters have noticed and taken advantage of that. During the festive season, Easter holidays and any other period where Diasporans are in the country, the cases will be on the rise,” said Insp Ncube.
“Some of the Diasporans only discover that they would have been duped when they start to develop the stands or houses that they would have purportedly bought.”
He said instead of opting for short cuts, members of the public should approach council and desist from using third parties who usually turn out to be bogus.
“Some of these unregistered estate agents are the main culprits in this fraudulent practice. Therefore, if someone intends to buy a house and they are not sure of the person selling the house, they should visit the police commercial crimes department as they have information on most of the registered estate agents and also the bogus ones.
“Home seekers should approach the council and follow the correct channels as shortcuts have a tendency of being unreliable,” Insp Ncube said.The Chronicle