THE “dead domestic worker” scam has once again surfaced in the Upper Highway area, and the South Africa Community Action Network (SA Can) warns residents not to become victims.
SA Can’s Brian Jones said residents would receive a phone call from an individual who claims to be a relative of their domestic worker.
“They tell you that your employee has died and they need money for the funeral. During this time it is usually difficult to contact the domestic worker, particularly if your only point of communication is a cellphone.
“During the call, the fraudster will provide you with an account into which the money must be deposited. Once you have done so, the fraudster will simply disappear with the money. The only recourse that victims of this con-game have is to open a case of fraud at their police station, so it would clearly be preferable if people weren’t fooled at all.”
The way it works is that con artists target domestic workers and will either befriend them or eavesdrop on their conversations in taxis and shebeens - these are just two of many underhanded methods. They try to discover the employer’s name and contact information. The more details they can get the more convincing the lie. It is essential to instruct your staff not to divulge this information in public or among friends.
Before calling you, the fraudsters will contact the domestic worker and tell her to switch her cellphone off for several hours – usually under the pretense that the network will be down for upgrades or maintenance, thereby making it impossible for the employer to contact the domestic worker during that time. This is why multiple points of contact are advised whenever possible.
Finally, and this is where common sense comes in, you should never believe anything a stranger says over the phone unless they can provide you with some kind of proof, especially when death is concerned. In the vast majority of cases, after the scam is complete, the domestic will be found in perfect health and unaware of what has transpired.
Jones said that as long as one keeps their wits about them, the chances of being tricked in this manner are very small.
“Several members have received these calls in the past few weeks, so it’s definitely something you should be aware of and share with family and friends.”