The Western Cape Department of Human Settlements strongly urges residents to be aware of online housing scams that request you to pay for government housing assistance.
The Department recently learnt of a WhatsApp message that is being circulated, claiming to assist residents to receive a house within 2 weeks. Residents are then requested to pay R2,300 for the approval letter and title deed in order to receive a housing opportunity. Specific areas targeted include Khayelitsha, Stellenbosch, Montana Paarl and Mitchells Plain. Residents should be aware that no payment is required to be placed on the housing demand database (ie. waiting list), to apply for a housing subsidy, or any related government housing service. The request for payment should alert residents to the offer being a scam.
The particular WhatsApp message is one of many online housing scams preying on vulnerable residents. During 2022, the Department became aware of several Facebook accounts making similar claims to assist residents to receive a government housing opportunity for a fee. In one particular Facebook Account, “RDP House Application 2022/2023”, the individual claimed to be an employee of the Department.
Fraudulent scams have increasingly been reported and appear on different platforms, particularly on social media, requesting citizens to either: pay a deposit or holding fee for a government house; to pay to be approved for a government housing opportunity; or to pay for the processing of an application for example.
Western Cape Minister of Infrastructure, Tertuis Simmers, commented that “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.”
To qualify for a government subsidised house, residents need to:
• Be a South African citizen or have a permanent residency permit.
• Be 18 years or older.
• Be married or living with a partner.
• Be single or divorced and have proven financial dependents permanently living with them.
• Earn a household income of R3 500 or less, before deductions.
• Not be current or previous property owners.
• Not have received a housing subsidy from the government before.
The Department also has various subsidies available to assist residents earning between R3 500 and R22 000 gross monthly household income. Enquiries can be made at any municipal housing office.
The Department’s Acting Director for Communication, Muneera Allie, added that “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. During 2022, 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”.
The Department urges residents to be alert to requests for money involving government housing and know that:
• no exchange of money is needed to get approval for a government subsidised house, and
• you do not have to pay to be on the housing database.
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 (SAPS) office for assistance.