Find an industry where there is high demand
Originally it was selling boreholes during the Cape Town water drought of 2015-2018 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Town_water_crisis
Water was scarce and expensive, so home owners looked for altenatives - boreholes
Jonathan Clive Stephenson saw the demand and started a borehole business “We Group t/a We Drill Africa”
Jonathan Clive Stephenson did a few failed / partial borehole installations ending up with many unhappy victims still waiting for their boreholes.
The drought is over, so a new business opportunity was needed where readily available victims could be found.
The Eskom Load Shedding and ever-increasing prices of electricity in South Africa offers a huge supply of victims
Having found an area of demand, the scam proceeds as follows:
Study the chosen industry – in this case Solar PV systems
Jonathan Clive Stephenson has studied the Solar industry and has even done a few installations.
He even took a trade course (PV GreenCard) for some knowledge and accreditation.
As a result he knows the technicalities of PV systems and all the buzz words and acronyms.
Knowledge of the industry ensures that potential victims are convinced of his legitimacy.
Create a professional looking web site
Creating a web site is quite simple and costs less than R100 per month to host.
Jonathan uses xneelo/shopify as it offers a one-stop-shop to register domains, setup a site, handle a few emails.
Use stock fake photos of Solar installations showing happy customers.
Use stock photos of locally available equipment.
Use brands that are known and are available in South Africa.
Provide relevant market prices and correct technical information on the products:
- Solar PV Panels - JA Solar, Canadian Solar
- Inverters - SunSynk, AlpaESS, Kodak, SOLIS
- Lithium Batteries - Pylontech, SolarMD, AlphaESS
This will ensure that any knowledge customers will be comforted.
Create social media presence
Create accounts on Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Upload few photos and pages of fake installations.
Add a few stories Load Shedding, Eskom price hikes, latest in PV systems.
Add sales brochures of products, installations, etc.
Get some bots/family/friends to write positive reviews.
This will add “depth” and legitimacy to your new solar business.
Rent a “Virtual” office with “Virtual” assistant
Rent virtual offices in major centers like Cape Town and Johannesburg.
If you cheap, you can just use the physical address of a known virtual office.
You will get a real physical address for the virtual office.
A Google street view search of the address will show a real presentable upmarket building.
This gives the business a “physical” presense and adds to the legitimacy of the business.
A physical address will make potential customers comfortable that they are dealing will a physical company that they can go to in the event of any problems.
Advertise on Google, Facebook to promote your fake business
Use a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) service to improve your ranking on Google and Facebook.
Pay Google / Facebook for advertising and raking so searches for “Solar”, “PV”, “Load Shedding”, etc will result in your new business appearing ahead of legitimate businesses.
This will ensure you get a steady stream of potential victims.
On your web site / FaceBook - offer PV systems at normal (nothing special) retail prices
A full system typically comprises of:
- 16 x Solar PV Panels
- Mounting System
- 1 x Inverter
- 2 x Lithium Batteries
- Fuses, DB Boards
- Professional Installation
- Certificate of Compliance (CoC)
A typical installation is advertised by Jonathan from R100,000 to R265,000+
These are normal retail prices and won’t raise any red flags.
Depending on time of year, offer Black Friday / Christmas / New Year / Easter / Spring / Winter / etc specials.
The specials reduces the prices from “nothing special” to “good” (but not too good to be true).
The few percent discount and “deadline” will be enough to cause a few potential victims to show interest / place orders.
Most installers ask for 90% deposit, so offer better terms:
- 50% upfront
- 35% on start
- balance on completion
- Any additional equipment (eg extra battery, more panels is 100% paid up-front)
Once the 50% deposit is paid, you dropped off some panels to secure the additional 35% on start.
The steps above ensure Jonathan’s fake business looks 100% legitimate and he is are now ready to scam.
You now have 85% of R265,000 deposit which works out to R225,250
The panels are ~R25,000, so you have a cool ~R200,000
If you’ve done your job properly you can scam 20 victims a year, that’s a cool R4 million tax free, VAT inclusive income stream.
Victims will start getting suspicious and then you can start the fun part of giving victims the run-around.
Give excuses until the customer gives up
TIP: Always communicate with the victim so that the legal system treats this as an onging issue and not fraud. Below are actual excuses used by Jonathan Clive Stephenson over a 12 month period:
- I’ll be on-site next week as I’m just completing an installation…
- We on the way, it’s been crazy busy…
- I have to do software updates on the Inverter, so I can’t be on site, see you next week
- Sorry, we playing catch up due to weather setting installations back
- I’ve caught Covid-19 and have to be in isolation for 2 weeks (Sends some photos of Covid testing)
- Installation team member has died from Covid – just arranging the funeral – sorry will be there next week
- I’m busy organizing everything. Had to return to Cape Town. Will be back in Johannesburg next week.
- Thanks for your patience, but the installation team is now on builder’s holidays (16 Dec – 16 Jan).
- Have a wonderful Xmas and see you in January when the team is back.
- The installation team has let me down, I’m recruiting new workers and have to get them the certified “PV Green Card”, will take two weeks and then we will be there.
- I was scammed by a rogue supplier and am trying to recover from my loss.
- My partner in Johannesburg (Themba Phillip Tsotetsi) is nowhere to be found, I will be in Johannesburg to do the install myself.
- Sorry for missing the deadlines, I lost my mother-in-law, will be up after the funeral.
- I’m busy organizing for the supplier to deliver the equipment directly to you. (I ask for the courier details / supplier address so I can collect – but these aren’t forthcoming).
- My business has gone to shit because of bad Hello Peter reviews – can your remove the review so I can pick up my business.
- I was on my way when I had an accident – do you want photos of the damaged car?
- I’m trying my best, will you accept a different inverter as that model is out of stock
This is a delay tactic whilst the customer researches if the replacement is OK.
This will go back and forth a few times.
- Oops that inverter is for Off-Grid, can I rather offer you a Hybrid inverter – more delays whilst models are discussed.
- The battery I was going to install has been recalled…
- Sorry for the late reply – I had a funeral for my Gran….
- As soon as the inverter is ready, they will book it out to you.
- There is a stock shortage of inverters…
- I’ve just finished 2 sites, waiting for cashflow so I can complete your site…
- I’m pushing as hard as I can, it’s tough going, I promise I’ll get you you…
12 months have now elapsed…
- Letters of demand
- Lawyers Letters
- Fraud cases opened at SAPS
- Carte Blanche expose
Don’t frazzle Jonathan Clive Stephenson, just open another website (sunsmart / sun smart) and scam more victims.
The South Africa judical system is overwhelmed with more serious crimes (murder, rape, riots, Covid-19 surfers) and ignore these white collar crimes. Using lawyers and the courts takes years and costs thousands of rands - with only limited posibility of justice. Jonathan Clive Stephenson knows that the judical system is not functioning and so continues to defraud dozens of victims.
Victims need to pool resources and form a “class action” lawsuit.
If you have a tip off, suggestions, additional information please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org