Criminals using show houses to rob property sellers

Criminals posing as clients are increasingly targeting show houses in the Cape Town, with at least eight incidents recently reported to the regional branch of the Institute of Estate Agents SA.

Yesterday Dianne Brock, the general manager of the institute's Western Cape branch, said it appeared one man was involved in the crimes, which had been reported in areas including the City Bowl, Observatory, Mowbray and Pinelands.

Brock said eight incidents had been reported to the institute in two months, with most occurring in the past two weeks. "It's a worry," she said. It was unclear how many of the cases had been reported to the police .

Yesterday, police spokesman Andre Traut said he could not confirm any of the incidents as the Cape Times could not provide him with specific details about the cases.
Brock said a potential customer would meet an estate agent and get taken around a show house.

The agent would then get distracted by other clients also there for a viewing and the initial customer would then go off on his own and it would later be discovered small items had been stolen from the home. In some cases, cupboards would be opened and items removed.
A safe had been opened in one incident.

In a warning sent out to Kirstenhof Crime Watch last week, Brock said it was not clear if the person purporting to be a client was working with others who also pretended to be buyers.
She said vehicles to watch out for included a white Toyota and a dark blue Mercedes-Benz.
"Laptops, cellphones, jewellery, iPods, iPads, tablets and other small items of value have been stolen."

Other areas targeted included Durbanville, Bellville and Constantia.

To try to prevent such crimes occurring, she recommended agents took photographs of potential buyers as a safety measure.

Yesterday an estate agent, who declined to be named, said the person apparently responsible for the current crimes claimed to be from Johannesburg. A driver transported the client to and from a show house. The agent urged home owners who planned to have people view their homes to pack away or lock up valuables.

In trying to deal with this kind of incident some realtors are turning to virtual show houses.

(Cape Times)

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