Warning to watch out for funeral scammers

Domestic worker Phumeza Baart and her employer, Angela Sayer-Farley, have been together for 16 years.

A Hout Bay resident is warning others to be aware of what has been dubbed a “funeral scam” after she almost fell victim to a man posing as her domestic worker’s brother.

Angela Sayer-Farley is still trying to come to terms with an incident on Friday February 24 in which a man called her home informing her that her long-time domestic worker, Phumeza Baart, had died, and he urgently needed R3 000 for her funeral.

“At about 8.30am on Friday, I got a call on our landline. The man said he was Phumeza’s brother. I immediately said, ‘Hello Sizwe’ (the name of Ms Baart’s brother), even though I didn’t recognise the voice,” she said.

“So I gave up this information and the man played along. He told me Phumeza had died the night before, and even gave details of her death, saying she had been at a street party and got sick after eating something bad.”

The man said he was in desperate need of money for her funeral, and said Ms Sayer-Farley should go to the ATM at the nearby Spar to do a money transfer to him.

“Phumeza and Sizwe both live in Philippi, and the man said he was waiting at an ATM there until he received the money. He kept calling at regular intervals to make sure I was on my way,” she said.

“I was just getting the car out the garage, when who should I see coming up the road but Phumeza. I immediately ran up to her and gave her a big hug and told her I was so happy she was alive. She is part of our family. All my neighbours were wondering what was going on, and I think we brought traffic to a standstill.”

After allowing their emotions to settle, Ms Baart called her brother.

“He didn’t know what I was talking about, and asked me, ‘Why would I say that you had died?’,” she said.

“This incident made me feel very sad. Sud-
denly all I can think about is what would hap-
pen to my children if something did happen to me.”

Following the call to her brother, Ms Baart then dialled the number the man had given her employer.

“As soon as I began speaking, he put the phone down.”

Ms Sayer-Farley then reported the matter to Hout Bay police.

“I gave them the man’s number, which they keyed into their database. The detective immediately said I had been a victim of a well-known funeral scam. I was told that a lot of the time the scam artists say they need to get their body of their relative back to the Eastern Cape, and people then cough up money.”

“This is emotional blackmail, and I just want to warn others to be wary of this scam.”