Sassa Covid-19 R350 SRD grant
(Gallo Images)
  • Social grant beneficiaries are being warned against a new scam which gives fraudsters access to grant money in their accounts.
  • The scam is perpetrated by criminals posing as employees of the welfare agency who ask to "check" whether the beneficiaries' bank card is still active.
  • Fraudsters then use a skimming device to steal vital information and clone the card.
  • This scam is particularly prevalent in the Eastern Cape, North West, and KwaZulu-Natal.
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The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has warned grant beneficiaries of a new scam by fraudsters posing as government employees. Unsuspecting beneficiaries have had their Sassa cards cloned and their welfare money withdrawn.  

Sassa, by its own admission, has been a prime target for unscrupulous scammers throughout the years. The agency, which distributes more than 18 million social grants to South Africa's most vulnerable citizens, has spent much of the pandemic trying to plug holes in its overburdened payment systems.

Sassa's operational problems were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and a recent changing of cards – used by recipients to access their grant payments – is being exploited by fraudsters. These cards, issued by the South African Post office (Sapo), were ordered replaced by the South African Reserve Bank after a security breach.

Amid confusion surrounding the replacement of existing Sassa cards, the agency was forced to refute claims of an expiration date at the end of March, although it insisted that all cards linked to Sapo would need to be replaced. The time frame for this replacement has not yet been confirmed.

Scammers have begun exploiting the uncertainty surrounding the replacement of old Sassa cards and misinformation concerning erroneous expiry dates which would render the cards useless.

The agency confirmed that it had received multiple reports of the same scam, particularly from beneficiaries in the Eastern Cape, North West, and KwaZulu-Natal, being perpetrated by criminals pretending to be Sassa employees.

The fraudsters approach beneficiaries and inform them that they've been instructed to "check" whether their Sassa cards are still valid. This fake validity test is actually conducted with a skimming device, which collects and stores the card's information.

This information is later transferred to a clone card, which is used to withdraw money out of the Sassa beneficiaries' account.

"We do not know as yet if they also ask the beneficiaries to enter their card PINs, however in such cases, beneficiaries are advised to please always keep their social grant payment card PINs safe and to themselves," said Sassa CEO, Totsie Memela.

The agency urged all beneficiaries to "not cooperate" with anybody who requests to inspect their cards, and, instead, report incidents directly to the police. Sassa added that its employees are never sent to tamper with beneficiaries' cards, whether at home or in the street.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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