Fraudsters pose as health officials to get free meals
Cape Town eateries under siege
Scam artists masquerading as health department officials are targeting restaurants in Cape Town hoping to devour a free meal.
The city’s health department warned yesterday that “fake officials” were attempting to force businesses to renew their health certification, claiming that a Certificate of Acceptability (COA) issued to a business preparing food expires every two years.
Their modus operandi is to threaten to close down the businesses and demand free meals.
“Criminals are finding more inventive ways to scam people out of their money and scoring free meals. Not only is this fraudulent and illegal behaviour, but many restaurants are still recovering from lockdown and can ill-afford to be scammed in this manner,” said mayoral committee member for community services and health Patricia van der Ross.
City health was aware of three attempts to pull off the scam in Kalk Bay, Muizenberg and Bergvliet.
“In all three cases, the local environmental health practitioners (EHPs) who service the areas are well known and the business owners showed the criminals the door and reported the matter to the city,” the city said.
“To avoid being conned, business owners need to be aware that COAs issued since the updated regulations were published in 2018 remain valid unless the premises has a change in management, is sold, physical changes are made to the premises and/or to the scope of operations.
“Only the City of Cape Town health department has the legal mandate to issue COAs to food premises which, when issued, are printed on specifically manufactured paper with a holographic City logo that prevents it being replicated.”
No charge is associated with processing or issuing the certificate.
“We encourage anyone who has been conned or threatened in this manner to please report it to the police and provide as much information as possible so those responsible can be brought to book,” said Van der Ross.
“If you’re approached or anyone visits your premises and demands payment or any type of reward for any type of inspection or documentation, insist on checking their credentials and verifying their story with the local environmental health office.”