The City of Cape Town’s Health Department has urged the public to beware of fake health officials scamming business owners.
In a press statement, the City reports that it has been made aware of an apparent scam where criminals, posing as health officials employed by the City, are fleecing money from unsuspecting business owners. City Health is aware of at least six cases of bogus health inspectors conning businesses into paying for inspections and certificates that are usually issued free of charge.
The con artists are requesting payment for the issuing of Certificates of Acceptability (COA) for food premises.
City Health is aware of at least six cases in Mfulei, Kleinvlei, Nyanga, Strand and Lakeside between February and May this year where such scams have been carried out.
The City would like to inform the public that there is no charge associated with the processing or issuing of a COA indicating that food premises are compliant with health legislation. Furthermore, City officials are not permitted to accept payment directly from clients and any applications that do require payment should only occur at a City cash office or via an electronic funds transfer into the City’s bank account – details of which are available on the City’s website.
‘It is unfortunate, but not unsurprising, that criminals are preying on businesses in this manner. This is more than just a money-making scheme. There are potential health risks because, if a certificate of acceptability is issued to a food premises that isn’t compliant with health legislation, it could potentially mean that food safety and hygiene practices are not in place and could result in unsafe food being consumed by customers.
‘We encourage anyone who has been conned in this manner to please report it to the police and provide as much information as possible so that those responsible can be brought to book,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith.
Liquor licence scam
In another scam, the City has been alerted to the issuing of fake approvals for extended trade in liquor. It appears that business owners unwittingly contract the services of unscrupulous consultants to facilitate their applications for extended liquor trading hours. There have been at least three such cases reported between August 2017 and July 2018, in Khayelitsha, Bellvile and Parow.
‘The phenomenon could possibly be widespread, if business owners aren’t aware that they were conned. Also, they risk hefty fines or even arrest if they are found to be in possession of fake documentation. Our advice to businesses is two-fold. When starting your business or considering any amendments to your conditions of trade, rather consult your local Environmental Health office or the City’s website to determine what exactly you need, how to apply for it and what costs are applicable, if any.
‘Secondly, if anyone comes to your premises and demands payment for any type of inspection or documentation, insist on checking their credentials and verifying their story with the local Environmental Health office. Business owners can also check the legitimacy of any documentation provided by a third party with their environmental health practitioners,’ added Alderman Smith.
To find your local Environmental Health office, visit the City’s website.