MOBILE money fraudsters are now advertising on social media, offering drivers licences for between US$120 and US$200, and to do that within a day, but they simply take the deposit and vanish, without handing over a licence.
They ask those who are trapped to pay a deposit, almost half of the total fee, through EcoCash before disappearing. They even ask for pictures, and show soft copies of the licence they are making in order to get top-up payments by showing they are making progress.
But in the end the fraudsters vanish with the money and the conned person has no money and no card.
There are quite extensive controls at the Central Vehicle Registry and it would be difficult for a member of staff to run the licence making machine without a lot of other authorisation.
The scams are similar to what people used to do outside the passport office, claiming they were in contact with a corrupt official and then vanish with the bribe, or come back and ask for more saying the bribed official was now greedy.
There are modest degrees of sophistication. One criminal uses different lines for phone calls, EcoCash and WhatsApp, all registered in different names.
To track down the double scam, fraudsters claiming they were in contact with someone with access to the licence-making machine and that they could process the licence with a large deposit or set of deposits, two Herald journalists responded to one of the advertisements circulating on WhatsApp groups and had long chats with the scammers.
One of the advertisements read: “We will take you all the way from the provisional licence to getting a metal disc, all delivery made within a day and not more than three days for those clients living in and out of Zimbabwe (through Swift, Zimpost, Courier Connect, Fedex, DHL . . . Please note that we only offer original documents, the licences will be in the VID system. In need of a driver’s licence in Zimbabwe, take advantage of this amazing opportunity to get driving licence in no time. It’s simple, fast, reliable and genuine VID deals”.
The Herald responded to the advertisement and communicated using the given WhatsApp number (0779 146 852). The man using the line identified himself as Nelson but a check with EcoCash showed that the line was registered in the name of one Tafara Jacob Madhlira.
The WhatsApp profile picture that is used by the fraudsters, was downloaded from an online story where TSCZ and Road Rules entered a partnership in 2016. The picture shows representatives of TSCZ and Road Rules signing the memorandum of agreement for TSCZ to provide the Road Rules mobile app with approved content on Zimbabwe traffic regulations, useful to aspiring drivers.
The Herald Investigations editor posed as a someone in need of a Class Two driving licence and was quoted US$200. The man asked for an initial payment of $200 to enable him to start working on the document promising to deliver in a day.
“For a Class 2 driver’s licence, you must pay US$2 000. You should pay a deposit of $2 000 and pay the balance on collection. We will hand the document over to you by 11am tomorrow,” said the man.
For the deposit, the man asked the writer to send via EcoCash on 0780508294, a line registered under a different name: “Kurai Rongayi Makore”.
When the payment was not instant, the man called using a different number 0772 255 640 registered in the name of one “Tawanda Chando” until the money was transferred.
The man went quiet for some hours until he asked the writer to send a head and shoulder picture for use in the production of a licence. He then sent a soft copy of a licence disc bearing the picture of the writer but without a name and other details, as proof that it was now work in progress.
The man demanded an additional $3 000 saying the disc had now been processed but the manufacturers wanted their payment.
“We are done with the production of the disc and the guys want their share before the information is put into the VID system.
“This is the last demand and as soon as you pay, I will deliver the disc to you,” he said.
After payment of the $3 000 was done, the man became slippery avoiding the writer, until it became clear the man was a fraudster.
Another journalist from The Herald separately responded to the same advert and was charged US$120 for a Class Four licence.
He was asked to deposit $2 000 on a different EcoCash number (0779 146 852), the one used for WhatsApp communication and it was registered in the name of Tafara Jacob Madhlira.
Using the same modus operandi, the fraudster told the journalist that he had connections at VID and Central Vehicle Registry (CVR) and that once the disc is produced, the details will be punched into the CVR system.
However, The Herald had already established that the man was a fraudster and ended the chat without paying anything.
Police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi warned people against trying to acquire driving licences illegally.
“First and a foremost such issuance of driving licences is illegal. Those people are committing an offence. We also warn people against acquiring fake licences without proper training because it is dangerous to the society. We urge people to report such cases to the police so that the culprits are brought to book,” he said.
Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe spokesperson Mr Ernest Muchena warned aspiring drivers from buying driving licences. People should not use social media when acquiring driver’s licences. They must follow the proper route of sitting for a provisional licence test first, doing practical driving lessons with a registered driving school and then go for road test.
“Those successful will be issued with licences. VID does not have go-betweens. You must attend in person and participate until you pass. Do not take short cuts and do not pay for a licence,” said Mr Muchena.