Motorists across South Africa have been receiving e-mails and SMSes demanding payment for outstanding accounts for using Sanral’s controversial e-toll highway system – but they should beware of phishing scams dressed up to look like Sanral demands.

According to the Justice Project of South Africa (JPSA), “These demands are not legitimate demands for payment, but are in fact an attempt to short-circuit the e-road regulations and force people to pay as quickly as possible without due processes and legislation being followed.”

E-road regulations state that any person driving on a tolled highway must be given a reasonable period to settle outstanding fees – usually 30 days from receipt of a bill in the post.

The JPSA has warned consumers that the furore surrounding e-tolls has also created the perfect environment for fraudsters to carry out phishing scams.

Kaspersky defines phishing as an attempt to fraudulently acquire sensitive information from users by “masquerading as a trustworthy person or business in an apparently official electronic communication”. These include e-mails, instant messages and SMSes.

The number of consumers receiving electronic communications from Sanral demanding payment for outstanding toll fees has risen markedly in the last few weeks, leading to a public outcry over the legitimacy of being billed in this way.

Many of the bills have reportedly been received by people who do not own cars, do not drive on tolled roads or do not live in the province. Consumers have also complained that they have been billed for incorrect amounts or for vehicles which do not belong to them.

The JPSA has advised road users to know their rights and exercise caution when responding to any electronic communications from Sanral.

“It is therefore our recommendation that you treat suspicious e-mails with extreme caution and refrain from clicking on links provided in them or making payment to banking accounts stated thereon,” says the JPSA.

Wayne Duvenage, from the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA), says drivers must wait for their invoices in the post.

The JPSA advises users who have received electronic communications from Sanral to call the call centre on 0800-SANRAL (0800 726 725) and provide the reference number from the bill. If Sanral cannot call up the reference number, it does not exist and can be considered a scam.