It has been reported that free-food fraudsters have been swindling restaurants into serving them free meals. They have been saying that they work for the Provincial Health Department Head Office of the Western Province.
Fake health inspectors have been demanding free meals and threatening to shut down establishments for violating apparent health laws.
The City of Cape Town’s Health Department issued a statement warning against these scammers forcing business owners to renew their health certification, claiming that the owners’ current Certificate of Acceptability (COA) expires every two years.
“Criminals are finding more inventive ways to scam people out of their money and scoring meals as in this case. 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,” says Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Patricia van der Ross.
It is believed that scams of this nature were attempted in Kalk Bay, Muizenberg and Bergvliet.
Fortunately, in all three cases, the local Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) who service the areas are well known. The criminals were showed the door and the matter was reported to the City.
Always be vigilant:
Updated regulations were published in 2018, and COAs remain valid unless there is a change in management, the establishment is sold, or physical or operational changes are made.
Only the City of Cape Town Health Department has the legal mandate to issue COAs. When issued, these are printed on specifically manufactured paper with a holographic City logo that prevents counterfeits.
In their capacity as City employees, they carry sturdy identification cards with the City logo that specify their designation and department. Employees cannot request or accept any rewards, gifts, payments, favours or hospitality.
There is no charge associated with the processing or issuing of a COA.
The City encourages anyone who has been conned or threatened in this manner to report to the police and provide as much information as possible.