Over the past five years, the SAFPS has seen a steady increase in the number of tax-related scams.

Improved efficiency
To improve efficiency when it comes to processing tax returns, and to encourage individuals and businesses to file their tax returns timeously, SARS launched its eFiling service in 2000. This allows taxpayers to file their returns electronically.

Unfortunately, this provided scammers with increased opportunities to turn taxpayers into fraud victims.

Fraudsters use a very focused modus operandi when running this scam. In the weeks following the tax deadlines, taxpayers will typically receive an SMS informing them that they have yet to file their tax returns, and may face significant penalties.

This message typically includes a link for the taxpayer to follow to check if they have filed their tax, or a phone number to call and follow up on the issue. Needless to say, taxpayers mustn’t click any link in an SMS.

If there is an issue, SARS typically puts all of its correspondence on its eFiling system and will send correspondence to the taxpayer informing them to log onto eFiling to view this correspondence. SARS will not provide a link in an SMS.

Should taxpayers want to follow up on any specific issue of which they are aware, they should either call the SARS call centre or visit their nearest branch.

Auto-assessments
To improve efficiency when processing returns, SARS has been known to pre-assess some individuals before they file their returns. This is typically done on individuals who use the same metrics when filing their returns annually.  Following this assessment, SARS determines whether an individual owes SARS money, or is entitled to a rebate from SARS.

Individuals who have been pre-assessed will typically receive an SMS from scammers claiming to be SARS informing them of the result of their auto-assessment. This message typically includes a link for the taxpayer to follow up on this correspondence.

Again, taxpayers mustn’t click any link in an SMS as it may be a scam. SARS communicates the outcome of these assessments on its eFiling system. Instead, log onto your eFiling profile, call the SARS call centre or visit a SARS branch to follow up on this.

A major scam prevention tool
In response to the increased level of scams in South Africa, the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) launched Yima, a platform offering online tools to combat these scams. The Yima platform has proven to be very effective in the proactive fight against fraud.

Yima is a one-stop-shop website for South Africans to report scams, secure their identity, and scan any website for vulnerabilities related to scams. They can also educate themselves on identifying a scam.

These tools will enable consumers to surf the internet, access key products such as online banking and money transfers more confidently, and make their daily lives aware and informed.

The main element of the website will be the ability to report a scam incident or any suspicious activity to the SAFPS. This suspicious activity includes a fake or suspect-looking online shopping website/portal, and instances where the user has received phoney banking information. These reports will be collated and shared with law enforcement for investigation.

Users will also be provided with a scam hotline to report a fraud incident directly to their banks, retailers, or insurance companies via a single number. Users only need to remember one number rather than search for each institution’s contact numbers online.

Additionally, Yima users will have access to the consumer products and services offered by the SAFPS.

One line to rule them all
The main element of Yima is the ability to report fraud and scams that lead to fraud.

When a person becomes a victim of fraud and has to report this to the relevant authorities, they have one emotional bucket with which to deal with the stress related to becoming a fraud victim. One of the challenges of the past is that a fraud victim had to approach several different authorities to report the case and begin trying to address the situation. This was very stressful.

This is no longer the case, as fraud victims now have access to one hotline number to address this challenge. The SAFPS has partnered with MTN and several key stakeholders to launch a hotline to report fraud.

By dialling 083 123 SCAM (7226), victims of fraud will be able to be connected to relevant authorities such as the South African Police Service as well as their bank or other registered credit providers to report their case.  This will simplify the process of reporting fraud cases and will hopefully alleviate some of the stress that victims of fraud experience.

WRITTEN BY Manie van Schalkwyk

Manie van Schalkwyk, chief executive officer of the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS).

While every reasonable effort is taken to ensure the accuracy and soundness of the contents of this publication, neither writers of articles nor the publisher will bear any responsibility for the consequences of any actions based on information or recommendations contained herein. Our material is for informational purposes and should not be construed as financial advice.