SASSA investigating “escalating” fraud cases

One pensioner had at least three months worth of her R1,890 monthly pension stolen

By Kimberly Mutandiro

14 September 2021

Pensioner Sara Thauthau from Gauteng had nearly R1,000 deducted for an Emerald Life policy that she didn’t want and hadn’t bought. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro

Pensioner Sara Thauthau from Gauteng says she was shocked to discover that Emerald Life insurers had been deducting R160 for a funeral policy she didn’t want and hadn’t bought for six months.

“l never joined any insurance. I am now unable to buy bread because l’ve lost R960.” When Thauthau was able to travel to her nearest South African Social Security (SASSA) office to enquire about the deductions, she was only then informed that it was by Emerald Life for a policy.

SASSA then advised 73-year-old Thauthau to log a dispute directly with the insurance company. She also requested that the policy be cancelled.

When GroundUp contacted Emerald Life last month, they denied Thauthau’s allegations. The company said that Thauthau had signed up for the policy, but when asked for proof, they said the information was “sensitive” and “personal”.

In a follow-up email to the insurer about Thauthau’s request to cancel and her remuneration, CEO Etienne van der Westhuisen said, “We can confirm that the policy was cancelled and a refund on all premiums was done on 20 August to a bank account allocated to Ms Thauthau.”

In a separate case, Emma Mbatha from Langaville said she had at least three months’ worth of her R1,890 monthly pension stolen. Mbatha became ill earlier this year and was unable to travel to the post office to withdraw her grant. After recovering in June, she discovered that her money was gone.

“I thought I was confused after coming out of a long illness,” she said. Mbatha was adamant that she kept her cards safe and hidden.

“The local post office said the money was withdrawn from garage ATM machines, some of it as far as Pretoria after midnight,” said Mbatha, who needs the money to pay her medical bills and buy food.

The Post Office has promised to investigate.

“These complaints have escalated in the past few months. We are engaging with SAPO to eradicate such instances,” said SASSA spokesperson Nandi Mosia.

Kevin Maartens, chief risk officer at Postbank, told GroundUp that bank card fraud was an industry-wide concern. The Postbank/SASSA card operates within the national payment system similar to a normal bank card.

“Postbank is introducing various measures including vigorous customer awareness and education initiatives, system fraud detection upgrades as well as branch staff education. SASSA beneficiaries are encouraged to timeously report any suspicious fraud,” he said.