Tax Freedom Day 2022: The Day We Stopped Working for Government

Tax Freedom Day 2022: The Day We Stopped Working for Government

“Taxpayer: One who doesn’t have to pass a civil service exam to work for the government” (Anonymous)

“Tax Freedom Day” is the first day of the year on which we South Africans (we’re talking about the “average” taxpayer here) have finally earned enough to pay off SARS and to start working for ourselves.

This year the predicted date was 12 May 2022. That’s three days later than last year, and a whole calendar month later than in 1994 when we first started recording this.

That’s a depressing trend, but it’s a worldwide one and we certainly aren’t the worst-off country – Belgians for example only get to celebrate on 6 August! Certainly food for thought for anyone thinking of emigrating. Have a look at Wikipedia here for some country-by-country comparisons.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

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Your Website of the Month: How to Avoid Falling Victim to a “Tinder Swindler”

Your Website of the Month: How to Avoid Falling Victim to a “Tinder Swindler”

“But love is blind, and lovers cannot see” (Shakespeare)

Note: Please think of sharing this article with any family member, friend or colleague who might benefit from knowing which “red flags” to watch for when using dating apps and social media.

Even if you haven’t yet watched the hit Netflix film “The Tinder Swindler”, you will know of the huge problem worldwide of swindlers using dating apps and social media to part victims from substantial amounts of money.

Hearts are broken, lives ruined, savings lost, huge and unrepayable debts incurred. It’s easy to think “I would never fall for that” but the reality is that everyone is vulnerable – these “romantic fraud” swindlers are masters at using powerful social engineering techniques to identify suitable victims, draw them in, and fleece them of everything.

Norton Security provide a wealth of information to help you navigate these shark-infested waters safely in their article “Romance scams in 2022: What you need to know + online dating scam statistics” here.

If you read nothing else, have a look at the ones we’ve highlighted for you –

  • “What is a romance scam?” (With a list of 7 common ones)
  • “How romance scams work” (with Infographic)
  • “Warning signs: Lies romance scammers tell” (6 red flags with Infographic “Is Your Cyber Sweetheart Swindling You?”)
  • “10 tips to avoid romance scammers and protect yourself” (with a long list of Do’s and Don’ts)
  • “How to report an online dating scam”
  • “20+ online dating scam statistics” (Infographic “Heartbreaking Statistics”) [The problem’s huge – victims lost around $304 million in 2020 alone]
  • “Romance scams on the rise”
  • “The real price tags of online dating”
  • “Online dating scams and older adults”
  • “Who’s most susceptible to romance scams”
  • “Stalker ware is trending up”
  • “How a romance scam works” (Infographic)
  • “Online Dating Advice” (Infographic)

If you aren’t sure that your online Prince (or Princess) Charming is 100% legitimate, ask someone you trust for objective advice before you find yourself in a hole you can’t escape from. And if you do find yourself one of the many victims, call in professional advice – the sooner you do, the quicker you can start extracting yourself from your nightmare situation.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

© LawDotNews

Using the New Cybercrimes Act to Protect Yourself

Using the New Cybercrimes Act to Protect Yourself

“…cybercrime has increased by over 300% during the COVID-19 pandemic – making it one of the biggest threats to businesses around the globe.” (Property 24 report)

The Cybercrimes Act, which has been years in the making, is now (with effect from 1 December 2021) at last largely in force. Although some provisions still remain on hold (most notably some of those relating specifically to “revenge porn” and the granting of protection orders), a whole range of unlawful cyber-related activity has now been specifically criminalized.

The police have also been given wide powers of investigation, search, access and seizure, and the penalties for contraventions are substantial.

The pandemic-forced shift to a “work from home, shop and communicate online” culture has reportedly seen cybercrime rocketing by 300%. As always our best protection from online criminals is prevention, but for anyone unfortunate enough to fall victim to them at least the new Act now provides us all with a layer of legal protection we haven’t had before – but only if we actually use it and report cybercrime.

The new crime categories

The Act’s provisions are detailed and complex, so this is of necessity just a very brief summary. But for most practical purposes what you need to know is that both individuals and organisations now face prosecution for any –

  • Unlawful access to a “computer system” or “computer data storage medium” (i.e. “hacking”).
  • Unlawful interception of or interference with data, computer programs, data storage mediums and systems.
  • Unlawful acquisition, possession, provision or use of passwords, access codes and the like (PINs, access cards and devices included).
  • Cyber fraud, forgery, extortion and theft.
  • “Malicious communications” (which would by definition include messages sent by email or via Social Media channels, WhatsApp and the like) to the general public, individuals or groups that –
    • Incite damage to property or violence to a person or persons,
    • Threaten a person or persons with damage to property or violence,
    • Disclose a “data message of an intimate image of a person” without that person’s consent, and regardless of whether the victim is identifiable in the image itself or only from a description or other related information. Moreover the image can be “real or simulated”.
A particular warning to Social Media users

Posting or sharing anything prohibited by the Act – perhaps particularly any of the types of “malicious communication” referred to above – could land you in some extremely hot water. Think before you post!

What about “revenge porn”?

As noted above, some of the Act’s provisions relating specifically to “revenge porn” are not yet in effect, but there are already prohibitions against it in other legislation, plus the offences mentioned above relating to disclosure of “intimate images” should at least partially assist victims in the interim.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

© LawDotNews

South Africans – Don’t Lose Your Own Citizenship When You Apply for Another!

South Africans – Don’t Lose Your Own Citizenship When You Apply for Another!

“… it cannot be said as the applicant suggests that the loss of citizenship takes place without notice and automatically as the citizen in that position has proper notice through the structure of the section of both the opportunity to seek consent to hold dual citizenship and the consequences of acquiring a second citizenship without obtaining such permission. It therefore is not a secret provision but one that every citizen who voluntarily seeks to acquire another citizenship should ordinarily acquaint themselves with” (extract from judgment below)

Note: Many South Africans who need to be aware of this risk will be overseas and/or may not have heard of the High Court decision we discuss below. If you know of any such person, please consider forwarding this to them as soon as possible.

A recent High Court judgment has confirmed that you will lose your South African citizenship if you apply for citizenship of any other country without prior Ministerial permission.

It is irrelevant whether you are South African by birth or not. It is also irrelevant why you want to acquire dual citizenship – perhaps you are living/working overseas, perhaps you want a second passport just to make travelling easier, perhaps you have financial reasons.

How and why you lose your South African citizenship

Dual citizenship itself is allowed, but our Citizenship Act provides that if “by some voluntary and formal act” you acquire citizenship or nationality of another country, you are deprived of your South African citizenship. And Home Affairs is interpreting that to mean that you have voluntarily given up your South African citizenship by your own “formal act” of applying for foreign citizenship.

You are exempt only if …

This loss of citizenship does not apply to –

  1. Minors (under 18 years of age) and
  2. Acquisition of another country’s citizenship by marriage.
How to retain your South African citizenship

The good news is that you can apply through Home Affairs for authority to retain your SA citizenship – but your application must be approved before you acquire your second citizenship. 

The bad news is that it takes time, so don’t leave it to the last minute! Even before the pandemic, processing time was given as “3 to 6 months” and media reports suggest that delays are now much longer, although perhaps the publicity surrounding the High Court case in question will assist in improving the situation.  If you are overseas, you should find the necessary forms and instructions on your local SA Embassy/Mission/Consulate website.

You’ve lost your citizenship – what now?

This is very much second prize, but you can still apply to get your citizenship back –

  • If you were a citizen by birth or descent you can apply for reinstatement only if you have returned to, or are living in, South Africa permanently (you still have permanent residence, you just aren’t a citizen).
  • If you were a citizen by naturalisation, you must re-apply for permanent residence or apply for exemption thereof, before you can be considered for resumption of citizenship.
  • If all else fails, consider taking the legal route. As we discuss below, the High Court has recently held that the relevant provisions of the Citizenship Act pass Constitutional muster, but there is talk of a possible appeal.
High Court: Choose how important your citizenship is to you, and know the law

There has always been speculation that this section of the Citizenship Act could be held to be unconstitutional. However, in rejecting a recent application to that effect by the Democratic Alliance, the High Court has confirmed that it passes constitutional muster and is not “irrational”.

The High Court’s reasoning was that “It is ultimately a matter of personal choice what weight each of us attaches to the idea of our citizenship”, and that this is not a case of automatic loss of citizenship without notice but rather it “is really about personal and individual choices people make about their future and often choices come with consequences.”

The section in question, held the Court, is “not a secret provision but one that every citizen who voluntarily seeks to acquire another citizenship should ordinarily acquaint themselves with … while it may be arguable that citizens cannot be expected to know every feature of the law, those citizens involved in migration and  relocation to other countries with the possibility of acquiring citizenship there must surely be expected to acquaint themselves with the law in that area of activity they are involved in.”

There is talk of an appeal but for now at least, if you have already lost your citizenship your options are limited to those set out above.

P.S. Never let your SA passport lapse! 

Although you can travel freely around the world on your second passport, you must enter and depart from South Africa on your valid SA passport. Keep renewing it!

Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

© LawDotNews

Arrest and a Criminal Record for Not Wearing a Mask?

Arrest and a Criminal Record for Not Wearing a Mask?

“7,000 people have already been arrested for not wearing masks and most of them now have criminal records” (Police Minister Bheki Cele in mid-January)

We all know that wearing a face mask is the right and the safe thing to do, but it is also a legal requirement – and it’s one that you really don’t want to breach.

Firstly, can you be arrested for not wearing a mask?

The short answer is yes, the amended Disaster Management Act Regulations providing that –

  • Everyone (except children under six) must always wear a face mask (covering nose as well as mouth!) when in a public place.
  • It is a criminal offence not to comply with a verbal instruction to wear a face mask by an “enforcement officer” (defined to include SAPS and SANDF members, “peace officers” such as magistrates, Justices of the Peace, correctional services officers, municipal law enforcement officers and other designated officials). There are also reports of arrests without such an instruction being given beforehand, and as the police appear to be using their interpretation of the Regulations to conduct these “arrests without warning”, rather be safe than sorry – assume that if you have no mask you risk immediate arrest and prosecution.
  • You are liable on conviction to “a fine or a period of imprisonment not exceeding six months, or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
  • You need not wear a mask while undertaking “vigorous exercise” (not defined in the Regulations but presumably including fast running, cycling and the like – err on the side of caution here) provided that you continually maintain a distance of one and a half meters from any other person.
You could end up with a criminal record, and that’s real trouble

You can of course elect to go to court to fight the charge, but often you will also be given the alternative of paying an “admission of guilt” fine. 

It will be a tempting offer at the time but be careful – paying a fine is one thing but if you end up with a criminal record (an entry in the SAPS Criminal Record Centre database) you will regret it. Imagine for example a scenario where you apply for a job, or a travel visa, or a firearms licence, or for credit (such as a home loan). And suddenly up pops your long-forgotten criminal record, a nasty surprise at the worst possible time.

Plans to change the law so that only some admission of guilt fines will result in a criminal record have so far come to nought. So as the law stands you will end up with a “deemed” conviction and sentence – and thus a record – if you are arrested and your fingerprints are taken. Which is exactly what the Minister says will happen to you.

And once you have a criminal record, it’s not at all easy to get rid of it.

Three ways you can try to remove your criminal record  
  1. Firstly, you can apply for “expungement” of the record to remove it from the CRC database, but that option is only available to you after 10 years and for certain “minor offences”. It will also take a long time to process – “20 – 28 weeks” per SAPS. Note that some specified minor convictions fall away automatically after 10 years – ask for specific advice.
  2. Secondly, you could ask a court to set aside your conviction and sentence – costly, not an immediate fix, and not guaranteed to succeed.
  3. Thirdly, you could hope that planned amendments to our criminal procedure laws will retrospectively come to your aid – speculative for now.

The bottom line – wear your mask, and don’t admit guilt without legal advice!

Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

© LawDotNews

Don’t Fall Victim to a Ponzi Scheme in 2021!

Don’t Fall Victim to a Ponzi Scheme in 2021!

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” (wise old adage)

2021 could well be a bumper year for Ponzi schemes (and their equally evil cousins, pyramid schemes). They flourish in all countries and at all times, but with our pandemic-related economic woes and general disruption we will no doubt provide the scamsters with particularly fertile ground this year.

And these schemes just never go away. As soon as one collapses or is shut down, it is immediately replaced by a new one – or more (like the Hydra’s heads, cut off one and two grow back).

Who is at risk?

Everyone! It’s not just pensioners and retrenched employees desperate to recoup their 2020 investment losses. Past schemes have counted some of South Africa’s wealthiest and most savvy citizens as victims, the problem being of course that the con artists who originate them are highly skilled at picking their targets and at creating cover stories to make everything seem legitimate. Perhaps most importantly, they are skilled at the social engineering side of it, building trust and credibility in their target markets with endorsements and “success” stories.

2020’s R9.45bn parting shot at us

There’s often big money involved too. Witness 2020’s parting shot at us in the form of the late-December provisional liquidation of Mirror Trading International (MTI), alleged by its detractors to be a scam (an allegation hotly denied by MTI) and reportedly involving some R9.45bn worth of Bitcoin and some 280,000 investors from all over the world, lured by promised returns of up to 10% per month. At time of writing MTI denies that it runs a Ponzi scheme or indeed that anything is amiss, plus its website is still up, but a flood of media speculation to the contrary no doubt has investors panicking.

See also the recent press reports of the Asset Forfeiture Unit’s seizure of R106m worth of assets (11 chunks of land, 5 aircraft and a motor vehicle) linked to a suspected pyramid scheme.

During the lockdown, another alleged scheme took R42m in deposits from over 230,000 unsuspecting investors.

Stand by for more…and protect yourself and others by knowing the warning signs.

Red flags to watch for

See Sanlam’s Infographic below for a summary of how to spot a Ponzi scheme.

As the infographic suggests, let your watchword be: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.

Source: Sanlam Employee Benefits.

Another possible indicator of a fraud is a promoter with no physical address – and if you are given a physical address, make sure it is real!

If your proposed investment is presented as being a part of a legitimate multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme, it may or may not be genuine – tread very carefully and read “Understanding pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing” here for some pointers.

Warn others (including your staff and the “early birds”)

Please think of passing on this warning, and if you are an employer alert all your staff. These criminals often target workplaces because of the trust factor between fellow employees and colleagues.

Tell everyone not to fall into the trap of thinking that they can be winners by “getting in early”. Statistically, 88% of “investors” lose everything. And, as a number of South African court cases have shown, even the 12% “early bird winners” must, if sued by a liquidator or trustee, cough up not only their “profits” but also their initial stakes.

That’s because a liquidator (“trustee” in the case of a person or a trust) can recover any monies paid out by a liquidated scheme during the 6-month period prior to liquidation, unless the recipient can prove that the disposition was made “in the ordinary course of business” and without intention to prefer one creditor above another.  That’s likely to be impossible to prove with an illegal scheme. Even after 6 months the investor is still at risk, although the onus of proof then shifts to the liquidator.

In other words, even the “early birds” stand to lose everything.

So the bottom line is this – if you are approached by anyone with a “too good to be true” deal, don’t part with a cent until you are 100% sure it is legitimate!

Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

© LawDotNews

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