South Africa: Social Development Department Warns NPOs of COVID-19 Scam

The social development department has warned non-profit organisations (NPO) of a scam promising millions of rands after a number of organisations fell victim to it.

The scam purports to "accredit and convert NPO certificates to NGO certificates to qualify for international funding worth millions of rands".

As South Africa entered the seventh day of the nationwide lockdown to contain the further spread of Covid-19 pandemic, the department warned NPOs to be vigilant.

According to department spokesperson Nomfundo Xulu-Lentsoane, a number of NPOs have already fallen prey to the elaborate scam, which seeks to fraudulently gain access to organisations' finances.

"The scammers prey on the NPOs desperate for funding and charge them R1 999 for the conversion of their certificates to NGO certificates," Xulu-Lentsoane said.

"They have recreated a fake NGO certificate in which they ask registered NPOs to submit ID copies of members, their proof of residence, tax-exemption letter, bank account, bank confirmation letter and a photo of the NPO director."

The scammers claim this information is required to convert NPO certificates to NGO certificates in order to be eligible for international funding worth millions.

Deputy Social Development Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said: "We wish to caution the NPO sector to be wary of fraudsters who are taking advantage of the current situation in our country and want to profit through sophisticated scams.

"The scammers masquerade as members of an agency that converts NPO certificates to NGO certificates and facilitates access to international funding for registered organisations.

"The Department of Social Development has not contracted any person or agency to convert NPO certificates for international funding and does not intend to do so now or in the future.

"In fact, there is no such thing as an 'NGO certificate' as all organisations are registered as NPOs in terms of the NPO Act.

"The department provides information and registers NPOs free of charge."

Bogopane-Zulu said the department did not use unsolicited calls, emails, social media posts or texts asking NPOs to submit information for funding purposes.

'Freeze your bank accounts'

"NPOs that have fallen prey to the scam are advised to contact their banks immediately to freeze their accounts before the scammers access their funds, and to report such cases to the South African Police Service.

"The department is warning the NPO sector in particular to exercise due diligence and appropriate caution when dealing with any person or institution with whom they have never worked and/or they have never heard of to avoid falling prey to scams and fraudsters."

In light of the state of national disaster and the national lockdown to contain the further spread of the novel coronavirus, the department has extended the deadline for the submission of NPO annual reports from 31 March to 30 June. The extension applies to all organisations registered in terms of the NPO Act.

To comply with the lockdown regulations, the department has suspended all person-to-person NPO services, including the NPO Helpdesk.

NPOs who wish to submit their reports or enquire about NPO-related matters, can use the online platforms at npoinquiry@dsd.gov.za, npo.gov.za or via WhatsApp on 066 480 6830 or 073 099 1383.

Source: News24

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