Madonsela and Zille issue warnings after being scammed

Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and DA federal chair Helen Zille.

Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and DA federal chair Helen Zille.

Published Jun 19, 2023


Cape Town - Former public protector Thuli Madonsela and DA federal chairperson Helen Zille both fell victim to scams this month.

On June 7, Madonsela tweeted that both she and a friend had lost thousands of rand to a scam artist who had “hijacked” the WhatsApp profile of a mutual friend.

“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 tweeted.

Zille tweeted on June 16 that she had been scammed by fraudsters.

“I want to use my experience to help others avoid being caught too,” she wrote.

Zille said she received a call and a woman introduced herself as being from her bank’s anti-fraud department.

The woman then asked if she had authorised a debit order of R5000 from her cheque account.”

She added that the woman verified her details.

“She gave me her name, my ID and bank account number, and my married name, which were all correct.”

However, once the woman asked for her one-time password (OTP), Zille’s husband became suspicious and advised her that she was being scammed. He called the bank from his phone while Zille remained on the line with the woman. The bank confirmed that she was being scammed.

“Looking back, there were red lights flashing the whole way, but I ignored them because the assurances and the props (SMSes, etc) reassured me. I always thought I was too savvy to get caught, and wondered how clever people get duped so often,” said Zille.

She said she now knows that the fraudsters know your details and they are familiar with the bank’s modus operandi.

“They pick transactions that you are not familiar with to catch you. And they combine just the right balance of politeness and urgency to make you co-operate with them,” Zille said.

The Southern African Fraud Prevention Services (SAFPS) said the South African fraud landscape had increased significantly over the past three years, with impersonation fraud, money muling and forged documentation being the most significant challenges if has dealt with.

The organisation said the latest SAFPS fraud statistics indicated that impersonation fraud had increased by 356% over the past year.

This can be attributed to data leaks and compromised personal data, which has shown a significant recent increase in the country.

Manie van Schalkwyk, the CEO of SAFPS, said South Africa is investing heavily in digitisation to catch up with the rest of the world, and while digitisation would revolutionise the economy in future, it has risks.

He said scams whereby fraudsters assume the identity of a victim were also a significant challenge, and showed a 236% increase over the same period in 2022.

Cape Times