Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) has raised concerns over the number of scammers preying on motorists at licensing centres across the country.
JPSA said it was “gravely” concerned that fraudsters continue to exploit the existence of enforcement orders issued in terms of the AARTO Act.
“These criminals operate under the noses of the officials at registering authorities and driving licence testing centres in Johannesburg and Tshwane,” JPSA said.
“They can be very convincing, more especially when they approach unwitting motorists who just want to renew their vehicle licence disc or driving licence card with the minimum of fuss and delay.”
There has been a sharp increase in the volume of enforcement orders issued to motorists – a phenomenon which scammers are taking advantage of to extort South African drivers.
How it works
South African drivers are usually approached by these scammers while they are queuing or when they are turned away at service counters, JPSA said.
They are also commonly approached by scammers offering “assistance” before they even enter the licensing facility property.
After they provide their driver’s licence card to these fraudsters, they are presented with a printout of their AARTO infringements and told to settle them immediately in cash.
“False claims of warrants of arrest are also used to increase the urgency, as are discounts used to sweeten the deal, if they pay now,” JPSA said.
“There is no warrant of arrest under AARTO.”
“Furthermore, the 50% discount which is provided for if the fine is paid within 32 days of the actual or presumed service of an infringement notice cannot be reinstated once it has been forfeited.”
Once they have paid the scammers, there is little recourse for drivers who fall victim to this type of fraud, and they are commonly offered no assistance by the licensing authorities.
If victims approach the SA Police Service for assistance, they are commonly told that “no crime has occurred because you willingly gave your money to these people”.
New opportunities for scammers
JPSA chair Howard Dembovsky said that authorities have been aware of this type of scam for some time, but they have abandoned initiatives to combat these incidents.
“The authorities have been aware of these problems for many years,” Dembovsky said.
“Although I have served on various ‘security committees’ convened by the City of Johannesburg to tackle this issue, none of them have met this year, and it seems they have been abandoned.”
Dembovsky also said the upcoming AARTO Amendment Act will enable “electronic service”, which wil provide more opportunities for online scammers who run even less risk of being arrested than the scammers that lurk at licensing centres.
The only way for motorists to mitigate the risk of falling prey to these scams is to deal with their traffic fines properly, Dembovsky said.
Motorists can check their AARTO fines status on the AARTO website, after which they should exercise one of their so-called “elective options”.