Scammers use coronavirus fears to steal cash in South Africa
The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) is warning the public of a scam currently underway in the country where fraudsters are collecting banknotes and coins because they claim they may be infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Fraudsters are claiming to represent the central bank and visiting consumers’ homes telling them to hand over any banknotes in their possession because they have been contaminated with the coronavirus. The criminals are using falsified SARB identification and providing false receipts for the banknotes being collected. The SARB reports that it is not withdrawing any banknotes and coins from circulation due to the coronavirus.
“There currently is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through the use of banknotes and coin,” SARB media relations said in a press release.
The SARB has also stated that it will not, under any circumstances, send employees or representatives to collect cash from the public. It suggested that if anyone purporting to represent the SARB visits a home and is demanding cash that the consumer should refuse and contact the local police.
The South African media outlet Eyewitness News reported that victims are being given receipts for their cash surrendered and that they were told they could exchange the slips for "clean" cash at any bank.
This coronavirus cash recall scam follows a similar fraud reported by Eyewitness News where thieves are masquerading as doctors and nurses from South Africa’s biggest private healthcare provider, Netcare, to perform in-home coronavirus tests as a means to gain entry into people’s homes.
In February the Chinese government instructed its banks to sanitize all banknotes received utilizing ultraviolet light or high heat and store them for seven days in non-infected zones and 14 days for infected zones of the country, e.g., Hubei province. Additionally, the Chinese government printed about $572 million in new banknotes to distribute to the city of Wuhan, the capital of the Hubei province and the epicenter of the virus.