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STEALING FROM THE POOR OP-ED

More distress — how scammers defraud Sassa grant recipients

More distress — how scammers defraud Sassa grant recipients
Criminals are stealing the R350 SRD grant from people who have just turned 18 and are no longer receiving the Child Support Grant. (Photo: sundayworld.co.za / Wikipedia)

Fraudsters are cashing on grant recipients through an intricate system that includes deceptively registering ID numbers and opening bank accounts without the victims’ knowledge.

In January, Surprise Baloyi, a young man who lives in Mahlathi village in Limpopo, applied for the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant and asked me for help after he was unsuccessful. He said that when he had tried to apply for the SRD grant the system indicated that he had already applied.

In September 2023 I wrote an article titled “Time to bust the ghosts in the Social Relief of Distress grant”, in which I referred to the criminals who are stealing the R350 grant from people who have just turned 18 and their caregivers are no longer receiving the Child Support Grant.

I referred Surprise’s complaint to the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) officials who called him and helped him to change his contact number.

After the number was changed I checked his status and discovered that in fact his account had been active for almost a year and an amount of R350 was paid into an FNB account. The bank account had been opened without his knowledge. It turned out that his information had been used by someone else to apply for the SRD grant.

scammers grants

Surprise Baloyi’s R350 Social Relief of Distress grant was taken by fraudsters. (Photo: Supplied)

I asked Sassa about this and they said that the FNB account was reflected on the system and had been verified as belonging to Surprise Baloyi. They also forwarded those banking details to us.

I wasn’t surprised because it wasn’t the first time I had become aware of such a case.

Where I live there are many victims of this scam, and it is happening in other provinces.

Two other young men from Mahlathi who contacted me, Nwayitelo Zitha and Nyiko Mthombeni, said they had been defrauded in the same manner. They were shocked that bank accounts had been opened using their details, without their knowledge. I suspect these scamsters are working hand-in-hand with some unscrupulous government officials.

shoprite-checkers

(Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)

How do they do it?

The fraudsters use apps such as the Shoprite Money Market and ID Generator apps, a link from the Department of Employment and Labour, and SIM cards that have been processed through Rica.

They log in to the ID Gen app using the details of their victim, usually someone who has recently turned 18 and no longer qualifies for the Child Support Grant. They use the “generate ID” link and once it has confirmed the ID number they use the department system link where they enter the ID number. However, sometimes ID Gen reveals incorrect ID numbers.

I discovered that these systems work well at midnight and sometimes the criminals can find up to 100 IDs depending on how many Rica SIM cards they have. These cards are easy to get for free from local shops. They then use the cards to apply for the SRD grant on behalf of the victims.

Nyiko Mthombeni is another victim of the R350 SRD grant scam. (Photo: Supplied)

Nwayitelo Zitha’s SRD grant was stolen by scammers. (Photo: Supplied)

The criminals fraudulently register with the victims’ information and create a portal after they log in to the Shoprite app using a SIM card with the cellphone number. When the account is opened the Shoprite Money Market system will determine which account to open.

Then the criminals receive an SMS with banking details, enabling them to transact with the Shoprite Money Market portal, through which they can open accounts with different banks.

Because they have the Shoprite app, if the SRD grant is approved and payday is reflected, they transfer the money from the victim’s card to themselves through the Money Market portal.

Another fraudster trick is buying a voucher using either a Hollywood or Betway account and loading or depositing the grant money into the account. They then transfer the voucher to their cards which they cash out.

Throughout all this, the victims remain ignorant of the fact that someone, somewhere is using their identity cards to defraud them of their grants. DM

Israel Nkuna is a ward committee representative in Ward 19, a community activist, a human rights and social grants activist and a writer at Mahlathi village in Giyani, Limpopo.

Israel will be writing a monthly article about the 2024 elections, painting pictures in his villages and the entire Giyani. You can contact him at [email protected] or on WhatsApp: 082 433 8538.

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