The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has launched a national campaign aimed at raising public awareness of illegal deposit-taking schemes and advance-fee schemes.

Launched under the theme “Easy Come. Easy Go”, the campaign aims to give South Africans practical tips to check whether they are being scammed. It also encourages the public to exercise extra caution when choosing potential investment opportunities.

“Easy Come. Easy Go draws on the old adage that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. One of the responsibilities of the SARB is the prudential supervision of banks. The Banks Act prescribes that only registered banks can take deposits from the general public and it is an offence for unregistered persons to conduct the business of a bank,” the central bank’s governor, Lesetja Kganyago, said at the launch of the campaign Tuesday.

Kganyago added that the SARB was empowered to investigate the activities of unregistered persons suspected of taking deposits from the public in contravention of the Banks Act.

Last year alone, the central bank investigated 41 illegal deposit-taking schemes. Twenty-eight of these were from previous years, while 13 were new schemes. The SARB is investigating 19 suspected illegal deposit-taking schemes. More than 5,000 advance-fee scams have been reported to the SARB in the past five years.

The central bank said illegal deposit-taking schemes took a number of forms and varying degrees of inventiveness, including Ponzi, pyramid, and related schemes.

“Generally speaking, Ponzi and pyramid schemes fall within the jurisdiction of the National Consumer Commission, but the SARB investigates such schemes to the extent that they may have an element of deposit-taking, in contravention of the Banks Act,” said the SARB.

The bank called on the public to make use of the “stop, check and report” mantra, noting that the public should stop for a moment and ask yourself some basic questions. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The public should also check to see if they are being targeted and avoid becoming a victim and they should report the scam and help others stay vigilant.