Conmen, crazies and so-called medical experts are abusing people’s fear of Covid-19. Meanwhile, some people blithely ignore the lockdown and continue going about their ways.
A Somerset West man recently bragged online that he was going for walks despite the lockdown. He reported, “i have been (out) 3 times since the lockdown, just to get out and have a walk. i do carry a “shopping list” and an empty PnP plastic bag with me in case i get stopped and asked. So far all good.”
Medical cons feature a hairdrier, sauna and desert air
A crazy con that originated overseas popped up on local WhatsApp groups last week. A so-called expert took to Facebook and YouTube to advise people who suspected that they might have Covid-19 to direct a hair dryer up their nostrils. “The common, widely available hand-held blow dryer, used for drying hair, contains a heating element and a fan that instantly deliver forced hot air temperatures that will kill coronavirus even faster,” he advised. Having a sauna and inhaling desert air were also touted as cures.
Africa Check reports that a so-called garlic cure for Covid-19 is doing the rounds in Nigeria. It has been circulating on WhatsApp.
Translated into English, it says: “Here is what you should do to protect yourself from the disease. The disease will not affect you. Your body will fight the disease. You should use garlic in your drinking water and in your food, add it while cooking, chew it all the time and use it all the time.”
Conmen have used the medical angle from the start. As early as 16 March Netcare warned the public about scammers. “Please note that staff members from the Netcare Group, including from Netcare hospitals, Netcare 911 or Medicross medical and dental centres, are NOT doing door-to-door Covid-19 screenings.”
On 29 March 75-year-old KwaZulu Natal granny Genzeni Ernstine Zuma was raped and murdered by men posing as soldiers; they said they were going around sanitising homes. Social Development MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza told News 24 that government is concerned about “criminals who take advantage of the national lockdown to rob and murder unsuspecting citizens.”
Agri Western Cape warned on 27 March that an identification permit issued by organized agriculture to their members for use during the Covid 19 lockdown period was being abused. Agri Western Cape CEO, Mr Jannie Strydom, said that the organisation distances itself from any person or institution that is not a member of the organization that is using the Agri SA/Agri Western Cape permit. He warns that the con exposes the entire agricultural sector.
The South African government warns on its official website that “The current environment of the COVID-19 virus has given rise to opportunistic scammers hoping to make a quick buck from companies who supply goods and services to government. National Treasury wishes to bring these to the attention of suppliers. It is important for suppliers doing business with government to be aware and careful in responding to fake Requests For Quotations requesting the provision of the items or similar items as listed below. Amongst the items available for organs of the state requiring the items are: gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, etc.”
Online cons offer masks, vaccines
The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC ) has warned “that cyber criminals are exploiting the spread of Coronavirus for their own gain using “Coronamania” panic to spread Coronavirus scams. These new scams include spoofed emails offering products such as masks, or fake offerings of vaccines, leading to phishing websites. These emails come from seemingly realistic and reputable companies which manipulate people into clicking on links. Some of these websites prompt the user for personal information which ending up in the hands of cybercriminals. Although some spoofed emails can be difficult to identify, we urge bank clients to think twice before clicking on any link, even if an email looks legitimate. Any suspicious emails should not be opened and are best deleted,” advises SABRIC acting CEO, Susan Potgieter.
On 27 March well-known private investigator Mike Bolhuis shared the following list of Covid 19 related cons.
Fake hand sanitisers
Some sanitisers reportedly contain a potentially harmful substance called glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.
Fake sanitisers and wipes do not contain antiseptic agents used to clean and sanitise hands when soap and water are not available.
They do not offer protection by preventing or reducing bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that can cause infections.
Do not buy hand sanitisers that cannot be verified or do not have traceable origins and labels.
Do not buy any hand sanitisers from anyone roaming the streets or neighbourhood, informal stalls next to roads, shopping malls, markets, etc.
To check if hand sanitisers are fake, you can do the following:
Buy a known product from a reputable supplier and read the ingredients list on the back.
Look for the Standardisation Mark Permit or barcode on the product.
The product should provide the manufacturing details, address and telephone number/s in case of emergency. Clear instructions on the use of the product must be printed on the label. This is not failsafe and does not prove authenticity, but will in rare cases be fake, especially if the product is bought at reputable outlets.
Important to check the alcohol content (min alcohol content: 60%).
Fake face masks
Counterfeit face masks are being sold online and by door-to-door sellers.
Do not buy any face masks online.
The only face masks that will protect you against the coronavirus are those used by healthcare workers or officially certified in the mainstream media.
Only medical institutions are allowed to buy face masks due to a shortage because of the virus. Therefore, any outlet which sells face masks is not above board.
Home test kits
Criminals impersonate health care volunteers in an attempt to victimize concerned individuals.
They will trick the homeowner in believing that they work for a health care company and that they are selling COVID-19 home test kits.
Home testing is currently only conducted by designated certified personnel, dispatched by contacting authorities via the Covid-19 hotline number. The number is 0800 029999.
The criminals are likely to fraudulently charge their victims for a test that they never administer.
They also simply rob their victims upon gaining entry to their homes.
Bogus demand for donations
Unscrupulous doorstep callers are urging victims to donate towards research for a corona virus vaccine.
We urge people to distinguish between genuine and bogus charity collectors by asking for identification. This will scare them off, in most cases.
Conduct research regarding a company or person online, before agreeing to purchase or donate goods or services pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some scammers use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities.
Remember, money lost to bogus charities means fewer donations available for helping those in need.
Bogus home remedies that WILL NOT prevent COVID-19 infections
Boiling black/red/yellow/green peppers in water and adding lemon juice.
Drinking warm water containing cinnamon and basil leaves daily.
Bathing in saltwater.
Inhaling and using eucalyptus oil.
Adding lemon juice and turmeric to boiling water and drinking it regularly.
Bogus telephone callers are claiming to be from banks, building societies and utility companies urging victims to reveal passwords and PIN codes.
Scammers use fake emails and texts to get you to share valuable personal information.
They then use your information to steal money or your identity.
Do not provide any personal information or account details.
They also use phishing emails to obtain access to your computer or network. No link or website should be opened that you receive via email under any circumstances.