Currently, Sri Lanka is going through one of the worst political and economic crises since gaining its independence in 1948. Within this context, many scam messages, especially related to social security have been widely circulating, inciting fear among the public.
This is our investigation related to such a misleading message, which went viral on WhatsApp, over the threat of robberies by officers claiming to be from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Social Media Posts.
Viral social media posts were being spread in WhatsApp with the below text.
* High security alert: *
Beware, a group is going from house to house pretending to be a homemaker. They say they have the documents and the title of the department of the Ministry of Home Affairs and need to make sure that everyone has a valid identity card for the next census.
They rob houses. Note that there is no such program from the government. Send this to your neighborhood group chat. They are everywhere and they seem to be presentable. Please let your family and friends know.
Someone comes home and says they want to get your photo / finger on some scheme. They have a laptop, a biometric machine and a list of all the names. They show a list and ask for all this information. All of this has been shown to be false. Do not give them any information.
Everyone should stay awake and tell those who are not in the group.
These posts were shared among Facebook users as well
Sinhala version of these messages were also viral on WhatsApp as seen below.
And below are some of the Facebook users who had shared this unverified message
We tried to find the origin of these messages and noticed that the same message had been viral in many parts of the world several years ago as well. We noticed that Singapore Police had released a warning about this viral text message in 2021 clarifying that it was a hoax and that there was no truth behind it.
In a Facebook post, Singapore Police had requested the public not to share or forward this message with others and stated that they had noticed this hoax had been making rounds as early as September 2019, as seen below.
We did further investigation on these messages and were able to locate the origins of the viral claims from September 2019 from South Africa. The South African government published a special notice regarding this matter, clarifying that the viral text message was spam and the South African Ministry of home affairs had not received any complaint related to such robberies. The South African Department of Home Affairs had reiterated that their officials would not come to homes to validate IDs and the full notice can be read here. Archived
For further clarifications related to Sri Lanka, we contacted the Police Media Spokesman, Nihal Thalduwa, and he confirmed that the viral text message about robbers pretending as Home Affairs Ministry officers was a hoax and added that intelligence wing of Sri Lanka Police had not found any information on such type of robberies or complains either.
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According to our investigation we were able to find out that the viral text message claiming robbers pretending as government officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs and robbing houses was a hoax. Origins of this viral text message dates to South Africa 2019 and over the years have been spreading on number of other countries, who have refuted these claims as well. Police media spokesman of Sri Lanka also confirmed that the viral text message was a hoax and that Sri Lanka Police had not found any information on such type of robberies or complains yet.
Title:A group of people robbing houses, pretending as government officers?Fact Check By: Kalana Krishantha