Yes, I buy lottery tickets. No harm in waging a few Rands for a serendipitous return. But I often found it a hassle to get down to the local Gidani dealer to purchase the tickets. So I was quite pleased to see an option, on the official Gidani website, to Play SA Lottery online.
I registered a Player Profile online and then tried set up a Beneficiary Account with my bank, Nedbank, into which to deposit money that Gidani would use to issue lottery tickets. I used the Account Name given on the Gidani site, “Play SA Lottery”. The Nedbank online system wanted to know what type of bank account it was but that information had not been provided by Gidani.
So I phoned Nedbank to ask them for the information. I was told the account would be under the Approved Accounts menu. When I looked for “Play SA Lottery”, there was no account at all under that name. The, as usual, very helpful Nedbank call centre assistant also asked me what reference the Gidani website said I should use. But Gidani had not provided any Reference under their list of Bank Details. The call centre assistant told me that if I did not use the correct reference I could lose any money deposited into such an account. As much as she wanted to help me, she said I should phone Gidani and ask them for assistance.
Needless to say online scam alarm bells started clanking pretty damn loudly. If the official Gidani site not only publishes incomplete details, but details that could not be verified by one of the banks concerned, chances are this is a scam.
So I phoned the number published by Gidani on their Play SA Lottery website.
I got through to a call centre “assistant” and told him that there was a problem with their online operation and could he help me to sort it out.
Firstly, he could not tell me what type of account it was. He said I should just use the account number. Unfortunately, Nedbank insist on the Account Type in their online beneficiary registration. So the clanging got a little louder.
Then the assistant said I should use “Play SA Lottery” as the Account Name. I told him their was no such account in Nedbank. So after some thought and obviously checking his system, he told me to use “Lidonga Technology and Telekoms” as the account name.
“Who are Lidonga Technology and Telekoms”, I asked. “And why should I put my money into their private account, instead of an official bank account specifically for the purpose.”
“That’s the name of the account,” was all the assistant could tell me, in a very surly tone.
“Hang on my friend,” I interjected, “Surely you can understand how this sounds, in this day and age of rampant Internet scams?”
“Can you give me a contact number for Lidonga?” I asked.
“Why?” Was the reply.
“Because I would like to phone them and see if they are legitimate and why their name is on the account and not the name advertised on the Gidani website.”
I was given the number in a very sullen tone.
I phoned Lidonga. No answer and the ring was disconnected. Waited a few minutes and phoned again. No answer. Disconnected. Tried a third time. Still no answer and disconnected a third time.
Well, by now the alarm bells are deafening. It looks more and more that I have uncovered a very major online scam being perpetrated by Gidani itself or someone within their organization.
Time to call Gidani.
I ask the switchboard operator to connect me with someone who can help me with their online Lotto site. She gives me the same number through which I reached the surly and unhelpful call centre assistant.
I explained that I needed to speak to an official within Gidani who could verify and legitimize everything for me. After some argument from the officious gate-keeping telephonist, she put me through to a man called Khosi.
I explained everything to Khosi and said “Surely, YOU can understand my concerns and how this looks for Gidani?”
“Yes,” he said, in a far from convincing tone. After some discussion, Khosi said I “should just deposit money into the Lidonga account”.
“I’m not comfortable with that,” I told him, “if the official Gidani site says I should use a “Play SA Lottery” account. “
“Well it works that way,” Khosi told me. “We’ve had no problems. Nedbank just hasn’t sorted out their side properly.”
“But what or who is Lidonga and why not a Gidani account?” I asked.
“We outsourced the project to Lidonga,” Khosi said as if that would assure me. “But you can use an ABSA account instead. Nedbank and Standard Bank are problems.”
“No,” I said, “because that has not explained all the inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and unanswered phones which all point at a major scam being perpetrated by Gidani.”
“Can’t you see,” I reiterated to Khosi, “that there is no legal protection for anyone putting money into such an account? Not only could they lose their initial money but if, if Lidonga did purchase the tickets, and if they actually won anything significant, what guarantees would anyone have that they would get their prize money from Lidonga? What’s to stop a Gidani or Lidonga employee from pocketing the jackpots because no member of the public would be able to prove anything at all?”
“Okay,” Khosi told me, “let me speak to someone and I will get back to you.”
“Will you really Khosi,” I asked, “or are you just blowing me off?”
“No,” Khosi insisted, “I’ll definitely call you right back.”
“If I don’t hear from you Khosi, I will take this further,” I told him in parting.
Well, guess what? Not a peep from Khosi since.
Finally I thought I would phone the National Lotteries Board. I tried twice but the phone just rang and rang before finally being disconnected.
So my fellow South Africans be warned. Do not “Play SA Lottery” online or by SMS. There is no guarantee you will receive any winnings and you will have no way of proving anything should you win big and never receive your jackpot.
Gidani/Lidonga is operating a sophisticated official scam and no one seems able or willing to explain anything or get to the bottom of it.
You have been warned.
I appeal to any journalists who read this, please use your corporate clout and investigative skills to confront Gidani, and the National Lotteries Board for allowing this scam to operate under their auspices. It all comes off their official website and they can’t simply pass the buck saying they have outsourced the project.
Someone has to be held accountable and the online lotto system and bank accounts must be sorted out with some sort of guarantees to the public.
Or it must be closed down.