Scam alert! Four coronavirus scams to look out for

21 April 2020 - 06:44
By Unathi Nkanjeni
Scammers are using the Covid-19 pandemic to try to steal your money.
Image: ISTOCK Scammers are using the Covid-19 pandemic to try to steal your money.

While the country is working on flattening its coronavirus curve, scammers are using these unprecedented times to try to con you.

These scams include phishing and fake home screening for the virus.

Here are four coronavirus scams to look out for.


The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) has warned all bank users in the country about phishing. This is where cybercriminals try to gain access to your security information via "spoofed" e-mails offering products such as masks or fake offerings of vaccines.

Once cybercriminals have the correct level of confidential information about a victim’s bank account, they can impersonate the victim and transact using the correct credentials but without authority.

“These e-mails come from seemingly realistic and reputable companies that manipulate people into clicking on links. Some of these websites prompt the user for personal information, which ends up in the hands of cybercriminals,” said Sabric.

“Cybercriminals are also using SMS phishing, more commonly known as SMishing, to trick victims into clicking on a link - disguised as information on a coronavirus breakout in their area - to steal their credentials.”

Money cleaning

Another money-related scam involves scammers visiting people's homes to “recall” banknotes and coins they say are contaminated with Covid-19.

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) warned that these criminals carry fake SARB identification and provide false receipts in lieu of the banknotes “collected”, which they imply can be collected from any of the banks.

“The SARB has neither withdrawn any banknotes or coins nor issued any instruction to hand in banknotes or coins that may be contaminated with the Covid-19 virus,” said the Bank.

“The SARB will NOT, under any circumstances, send employees or representatives to collect cash from the public. If members of the public are approached by individuals purporting to be SARB employees or representatives, to hand in their cash, they should refuse and contact local police.”

Home screening

These scammers claim to be from either the department of health or the Netcare Group.  

Netcare warned that staff members from the group - including Netcare hospitals and Netcare 911, as well as Medicross medical and dental centres - are not doing door-to-door any screening.

“Should someone claiming to be a representative from Netcare, Netcare 911 or Medicross arrive at your home or business premises claiming to do screening for the novel coronavirus, do not allow them onto your property or inside your business premises for your own safety but please alert the SA Police Service (Saps) immediately,” it said.

Door-to-door sanitisation

These individuals claim to be from the department of social development (DSD) and are going door-to-door offering “sanitising services”.

The department's acting director-general Mzolisi Toni warned of this scam after a letter was circulated on social media claiming that a non-profit organisation linked to the Church of Scientology was authorised to render sanitising services to the department.

“To date, the NPO has rendered free fumigation services at the department’s head office in Pretoria, the Gauteng social development head office in Johannesburg, and a number of DSD facilities in the Gauteng region,” said Toni.

“Unfortunately, due to the fact that there are currently persons calling door-to-door claiming to represent the Scientology Volunteer Ministries and carrying out ‘Covid-19 sanitisation’ on behalf of the department, the department and the Scientology Volunteer Ministries have agreed to terminate the fumigation agreement.”