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No evidence of criminals posing as home affairs officers in South Africa

IN SHORT: A message has been flying around social media in South Africa, warning people to beware of potential robbers posing as officials from the home affairs department. But this is an old viral post for which there is no evidence, either in South Africa or elsewhere in the world.

Several Facebook posts doing the rounds in South Africa have warned against a new technique used by people to rob houses.

“Beware, the latest way to rob a house is a group going door-to-door pretending to be home affairs officers,” the Facebook posts say. “They have documents and letterheads from the Department of Home Affairs and claim to confirm that everyone has a valid identity card for the upcoming census.”

If you give these people access “they then loot the houses”, the claim says. “Please note that no such initiative has been taken by the government … They are everywhere and they look presentable. Please alert your family and friends.”

The claim has also been sent to Africa Check on our WhatsApp line. 

In 2021 scammers pretending to work for Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) went door-to-door in Limpopo province, asking members of the public to give their banking details. 

But are robbers pretending to work for South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs doing the same thing? We investigated.


No alert by home affairs

The Facebook posts say that the criminals posing as home affairs officers will be claiming to check identity cards for validity for the “upcoming census”. 

If this were true, it should immediately ring alarm bells for South Africans. Stats SA is responsible for collecting data for the country’s censuses, not home affairs. And the latest census was completed in March 2022. There is no “upcoming census” scheduled and it is unlikely to take place before 2032

We also searched for any alerts about the possible scam on the home affairs website. We came up empty

Most home affairs services, including renewal of or applications for South African identity documents, have to be done at a home affairs branch. The department does not offer door-to-door services.

Viral claim also in other parts of the world

This claim has done the rounds in the US, the UK and India, where it has been debunked.  

This is a red flag that it is being posted for reach rather than to inform. The more the claim makes its readers angry or scared, the more those readers are likely to pass on the claim, to try to keep friends and family safe.

Another red flag is that the posts give no source to back up the claim, making it difficult to verify.

There is no evidence that people are disguising themselves as home affairs officials in South Africa to gain access to private homes.

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