Online scam fakes president’s profile

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 22 Jun 2023
President Cyril Ramaphosa has become the latest victim of impersonation fraud on social media.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has become the latest victim of impersonation fraud on social media.

The Presidency has warned members of the public to be aware of a scam across social media and other platforms that impersonates president Cyril Ramaphosa.

According to a statement shared by the Presidency on Twitter, the imposters try to solicit funds from victims, with people asked to send e-wallets or deposit money into bank accounts.

“The president does not request any funds or endorse any payments or contracts between third-parties, whether through websites, adverts, social media, e-mails, letters, texts or phone conversations,” says the Presidency.

“If you have already received such communication, you are advised to terminate all further contact with the scammers, and in the event that you have already sent the funds, contact law enforcement immediately.”

According to the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service, impersonation fraud − whereby fraudsters assume the identity of a victim − increased by 356% in SA, from April 2022 to April 2023.

“This can be attributed to data leaks and compromised personal data, which has shown a significant recent increase in South Africa,” it says.

In January, government warned of swindlers impersonating the social media accounts of employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi in a “youth employment programme” jobs scam.

Earlier this month, former public protector Thuli Madonsela and Democratic Alliance federal chairperson Helen Zille were also victims of impersonation fraud.

In a tweet, Madonsela explained how she lost thousands to a scam artist who had “hijacked” the WhatsApp profile of a friend and requested money.

“He was pretending to be that friend. It was only when the scammer became so greedy and brazen that my son and I figured out the scam and warned other friends. WhatsApp ID theft or hacking is real,” she said.

Following her experience, Zille also took to Twitter, saying she wants to use her experience to help others avoid being caught.

She explained how an imposter, pretending to be from her bank, phoned her to alert her of an unapproved R5 000 debit order, and offered to “assist” with the reversal of the funds.

“Now I know. The fraudsters know your details. They are familiar with the bank's modus operandi. They pick transactions that you are not familiar with in order to catch you. And they combine just the right balance of politeness and urgency to make you co-operate with them,” she wrote.