Beware of housing scam

An online housing scam is making the rounds on social media.

The Department of Human Settlements has warned of online housing scams targeting backyard dwellers and renters and others on the housing demand database.

The latest scam, which has been going around on WhatsApp and Facebook, lures people who have applied for housing from 1995 to pay a fee of R2 300 to approve applications and to secure a title deed within two weeks. The WhatsApp message is one of many online housing scams preying on vulnerable residents.

Last year, the Department became aware of several Facebook accounts claiming to assist residents to get a government house for a fee. On one particular Facebook account, “RDP House Application 2022/2023”, the administrator claimed to be an employee of the department.

Fraudulent scams have increasingly been reported and appear on different platforms, the department said.

In a statement released last week the department strongly urged residents to be aware that no payment is required to be placed on the waiting list, to apply for a housing subsidy, or any related government housing service.

A scam is circulating on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Western Cape Minister of Infrastructure, Tertuis Simmers said the request for payment should alert residents to the offer being a scam.

“Vulnerable residents often fall prey to these scams in the hope of being assisted, or bumped up on the waiting list, for a government housing opportunity. In most cases, money exchanged due to fraudulent scams is not recovered. To be considered for a government housing opportunity, citizens need to be registered on the housing database at their local municipality.”

Muneera Allie, the department’s Acting Director for Communication said “perpetrators often have some knowledge of how government housing works and go as far as to create fraudulent approval letters and correspondence that may appear authentic and lawful.

“While some residents are also aware of how the system works, the mere suggestion of being bumped up on the waiting list prompts them to find the means to pay a requested fee to fast-track the process,”said Ms Allie.

She added that last year, one victim arranged for a R2 000 loan in order to pay for an “approval letter”.

“Due to the nature of these scams and false social media accounts created to rip-off residents, it is challenging to crack down on these con artists”.

Retreat backyarder Dawn Kiewiet has been on the housing database for 15 years. She almost lost R2 300 to the scam in December after she received the message from a friend and contacted the number provided.

“I was optimistic and interested so I WhatsApped them and asked about it because it seemed legit but when they were pressing me for the money something felt off. The longer I waited the more they insisted I pay as soon as possible but I eventually refused because it felt like they only wanted the money,” said Ms Kieiwet.

She advised others to not fall victim: “We are desperate for housing and they prey on that but please be aware that it is happening and they are targeting the poorest of people who work hard for the little they have.”

Residents are advised to contact the department, or any municipal housing office, to verify and check a housing social media post or advertisement’s legitimacy. To report any fraudulent scams, residents must contact their nearest South African Police Services station for assistance.