Recently, we have received calls from some distraught women who all fell victim to the same scam involving a supposed parcel at customs. A man, claiming to be an engineer from the UK, contacts the women via Whatsapp and befriends them. He tells them that he is sending them a parcel, usually containing a cell phone / laptop. The women receive a call from the courier company, requesting payment for clearance and delivery in order to take receipt of the parcel.
Sceptical of paying this fee, the women call their new UK friend for reassurance. He acts shocked and tells them to pay the money and he will refund them. The women pay the courier - on inspection, the account details provided by the courier appear to be personal banking details (unfortunately, none of the trusting women noticed this at the time). After making payment, the women receive a frantic call from the courier, telling them that the Customs arm of the South African Revenue Service had identified foreign currency in the parcel, and as such, are demanding further payment before they will release the parcel. The courier adds that Customs threatened to arrest him. This shocks the women into paying Customs using the payment details supplied by the courier.
A request for payment of a fine is then received and shortly thereafter a request for an insurance payment is received. The women pay, convinced that the amount of money in the parcel far outweighs the amounts they are being asked to pay. They are also told they will receive some of it back as a refund after they have taken delivery. If they are ever doubtful, they are reassured over the phone by their new UK friend. The payment requests continues until the criminals have extorted as much money as they can. Sometimes as much as R200 000.00.
Eventually, some of these women contacted us. We then had the unenviable task of telling them that they had been the victims of a horrendous, well thought out scam.
- The criminals prey on single women.
- Verify the courier company details reflected on the waybill on the official website.
- Phone the courier company using the number on the website and ask them to track the parcel using the waybill number.
- SARS will NEVER ask anyone to pay money into personal bank account and their demands are always on official SARS letterheads explaining what the demand is for.
- SARS will include all amounts demanded in one letter.
- All SARS email addresses end in @sars.gov.za. (no Gmail accounts are ever used)
- Contact the SARS office where the official alleges to be from using official website details.
- Report all customs scams to the SARS fraud division and the South African Police Service.