The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has alerted the public to fake news claiming it is “recalling” money from the public because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
In a statement on Monday, the SARB said criminal elements pretending to be its employees are reportedly visiting homes and scamming members of the public.
These scammers convince individuals that their banknotes are “contaminated with coronavirus” and should therefore hand them over, the Bank said.
‘Coronavirus not transmitted through banknotes’
It added, “These criminal elements carry fake SARB identification and provide false receipts in lieu of the banknotes “collected” which they purport can be collected from any of the banks.”
The SARB emphasised that currently, there is no evidence that coronavirus is transmitted through the use of banknotes and coins.
It said, “The SARB has neither withdrawn any banknotes or coins nor issued any instruction to hand in banknotes or coins that may be contaminated with the COVID-19 virus.
“The SARB will NOT, under any circumstances, send employees or representatives to collect cash from the public.”
Contact the police
The Bank urged members of the public not to hand over their cash to such scammers and to immediately contact the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Besides the apparent scam, the outbreak appears to have spooked some members of the public into panic buying of cleaning supplies and food.
Social media users have shared pictures and videos of empty shelves at various retail stores around the country.
As of Monday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize had confirmed 62 cases of coronavirus in South Africa.
On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced several extraordinary measures the government will implement in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
These include travel bans to several European and other countries as well as closure of 37 land and sea ports of entry across South Africa’s borders.