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Beware! The ‘Desperate Mother’ Scam

Below, you will find a detailed account of a woman, in her 30s who works the sympathy angle to get you to buy her items only to return them to the store for cash. And if you don’t fall for her ‘Desperate Mother’ scam, beware, she turns nasty. At least three people have encountered this woman in Olivedale (All Saints Shopping Centre) and NorthCliff.

This account was edited for length.

Greg Wells-Clifton wrote on Facebook:

“Yesterday I needed to buy a Hamper at the Spar. I was in the shop when a woman of about 30 approached me. Neatly made up, softly spoken, casually but neatly dressed, and a small handbag over her shoulder, but you can see, you just can see hardship. Kind of etched into the entire being. Colour of her teeth shouted ‘DRUGS’.
She called me Sir and told me that she has a Baby and does not want money but needs formula and nappies. I told her I could not help her right then [but] told her a bit about the Org, got her number, and asked how I could verify that she is down and out. She suggested I take a look at her FB Profile. Her name, as given to me, is Jenna Hawkins. I said that would not verify anything, but she said it would at least show she has Children as her Profile Pic is a side view of her and with a Child. I cannot find this Profile, as the one with such a Pic is of somebody else.
She gave me her life history and that she has three Children, and that two Months ago her fiancée simply left her high and dry, that she found out  about him cheating and had told him that either he told her or she would, and he had chosen to just pack up and leave one night while she was sleeping. That he is an Attorney in Bryanston. Her Mom, her ‘Ouma’, she and the three Children now share a cottage on a property in Pierre Road, Ruimsig. Mom uses her Pension to pay the Rent, Ouma [uses] hers to pay food, and she (Jenna) ‘does this’, meaning that she goes into shops as needed and asks people for help.

I asked her why she came from Ruimsig to Olivedale and she told me that she had been to the Olivedale Clinic to ask her ‘Gynae’ for help with Formula and Nappies, but that he had declined. I asked her how she got there, and she said she drove with her Mom’s car. I asked her why she did not just call the Gynaecologist to ask for help, and she said that she preferred to ask him face to face. If it were not for the fact that I deal with people on a daily basis, she might have fooled me. Exceptionally polite and insists that no money is being asked for, just the actual products needed.
My senses were on high alert for a few reasons, and I said I would call her later for information as per our normal Assessment, and we could take it from there. I said that I would if things were positive, deliver a Hamper to the cottage they stay in.
I shopped and headed for the tills. While waiting to pay, she walked past me with a loaf of bread in her hands. No nappies or Formula.
As I left the Spar she was standing outside one of the close by shops. I went into another shop and then remembered that there was something else I needed at the Spar, so went back. She was still there, bread in hand. What I needed was not available at the Spar and I left. When I did, I saw her hurriedly leave where she had been idly standing and walk across the parking lot. I put my goods into the boot and decided to see where she was headed, if she in fact was in a car, or what was happening.

I lost sight of her, and wondered if she had not perhaps gone into Woolworths, so I walked across there. Indeed, she was in an aisle and busy talking to a Lady. Before I got there she walked away toward the rear of the store. I approached the Lady and asked her if Jenna had asked her for help. She told me she had said she needed food, bread and formula. I had noticed the bread she had previously had was no longer with her. As I stood there she approached with a tin of formula in her hand. She saw me and was nonplussed. I asked her why she was asking this Lady for bread when I had seen her with bread, and I asked her where the bread was. She said she had put it into the car and needed more because they are four people needing to eat. I rehashed part of our conversation which took place in the Spar with her, about Ouma paying for the food, and she said that it wasn’t enough. I said to her that surely if she had money for petrol she had money for food, and she said that no she didn’t and she also hadn’t been able to call the Gynae as she had no airtime (this is different to what she had told me earlier).

The Lady being asked for goods was clearly uncomfortable, and in fact in front of Jenna said to me ‘Thank you, I didn’t know how to handle this’. I then asked Jenna what she was up to, and she said to me in a now fast becoming irritated tone ‘YOU didn’t help me did you, though I asked?’ I reminded her of our conversation and that I had said I would call her to get the needed info, and her response was a shrug and a sigh. At this time a Manager from the Shop approached us and quietly asked Jenna to walk with her. The Lady and I spoke as we headed for the tills, and she told me that she really had not known how to say ‘no’ because she felt something was wrong, so she was going to buy a few items, including the Formula (note she had not asked this Lady for nappies).

I was about to leave her at the tills when the Manager approached and apologised that ‘you have been harassed’. She then told us that during last week, at around 7PM, she had had to ask Jenna to leave their clientèle alone and to please leave the store. She mentioned that when she had taken Jenna aside a few minutes earlier, Jenna had arrogantly advised her that she had never been in the store before.

The Manager tried to correct her and she stormed off. She also said that the previous week had not been the first time either, and that Jenna’s Modus Operandi is as follows – she ‘gets’ goods from Person A at Checkers, a branded item, such as Infacare in a tin. She then goes to Pick n Pay and tells them she has lost her slip or that somebody else bought the goods and that she now needs the money as this was the incorrect Formula. If it is the case where she says she bought the goods and the store offers the correct product in exchange, she will tell them that when she realized she had bought the wrong formula, there was no time to return to THIS particular store she had bought it at and so quickly bought another at a store in her area as the Child needed to drink, and she is really sorry for being irresponsible in having lost the slip. There are different ways she plays this and she apparently gets it right often. I asked the Manager how she knows this and she said that this not having been the first time she has asked Jenna to leave the shop, she had spoken to other area retailers. And so she moves from one area to another.

I left the shop and as I was approaching the first line of bays for cars to park, I heard a voice loudly shouting and turned around. A guy was approaching me, his arms waving, and saying ‘Bru, why do you mess with people’s livelihoods?’ I then saw Jenna a few meters behind him, also shouting, saying ‘Wait until I find your Family and they are hungry. I will spit on them’. Something made me look down. The guy with her had a knife in his hand, and it wasn’t a butter knife. Unsure what to do, I turned, and as I did, with him fast approaching, knife at his side, arm rising, out of nowhere it seemed to me, four security guards appeared and were next to me. The guy stopped dead in his tracks. Jenna shouted, enraged now, ‘So now you’re scared. Good F***er you should be’. One of the guards lifted his Cell and said loudly that he had taken a pic of them and the registration on the car, and they turned and fast-tracked to the little bakkie (white, I think a Corsa, otherwise similar), and pulled away, her driving.

I am really grateful to the security guards at the Centre, because I would not have been able to defend myself with a cellphone against the sharp and large knife he held exposed, for me to see, as he approached. He was close enough for me to see how red his eyes were, how dilated his pupils were. They were both very very angry, and I had the gut sensation that he was not going to wait for a response to his outburst from me, but that he was going to use the knife.”

Please circulate this message. At worst, it will prevent you from falling for this scheme. At best, it may force this woman to seek help to overcome her addiction.

As always, stay safe!
Bevern Moyo

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