Grant money disappears

2015-07-14 06:00

More and more pensioners are being targeted by opportunistic business people who approach social grant beneficiaries for funeral policies.

Voice of Parkwood chairperson Paul Philips says people in the poverty-stricken community of Phumlani Village in Lotus River are falling prey to organisations who come into the area and offer funeral policies to grant beneficiaries.

“Deductions are made from these people’s grant cards. Every month it’s a little more that gets deducted. I have tried to assist a few of the residents who have brought up their issues but we are not getting any joy,” Philips says.

People’s Post previously reported on a company which makes illegal deductions from grant beneficiaries (“Policy takes and takes”, 9 June).

One resident, who requested to remain anonymous, says she did not know the funeral policy she signed up for would cause so much “distress”.

“When I signed up for the policy I was told a monthly deduction of R99 was going to be done. This sounded like a good deal and I signed up,” she says.

However, after three months the woman says she has noticed irregular amounts being deducted.

“The first amount was R99 but then it just increased after that. The second month was R130 and the next month was R150. I have tried to contact the woman who was here but she is never available. It’s not right what they are doing because I already have to get by with so little,” she says.

According to an advertisement posted in community newspapers by the South African social security agency (Sassa), beneficiaries have been warned to be wary of illegal deductions.

The statement reads that before the social grant is paid into a bank account of a beneficiary only one legal deduction is allowed to be made. This deduction is for a funeral policy that may not exceed 10% of the total value of the grant.

“This premium is deducted by Sassa before the social grant is paid to the beneficiary and then paid over to the relevant insurance company. Once the social grant is paid into the bank account that is linked to the Sassa debit card, legal deductions instituted by financial entities will take effect for purchases that were made,” it further says.

These deductions include airtime, electricity, micro loans, credit instalments and policy premiums.

“Any disputes should be resolved directly between the grant beneficiary and the entity that instituted the deduction.”

The statement explains that the Sassa branded payment card was introduced to allow social grant beneficiaries the convenience of accessing their social grant anywhere and at any time.

“The Sassa payment card is a debit card and allows for cash to be withdrawn from ATMs, purchases to be made from suppliers and legal deductions to be made. The introduction of the Sassa card into the banking system unfortunately also provided an opportunity for social grant beneficiaries to be exploited.”

Grant beneficiaries are urged to report any illegal deductions from their cards to their nearest Sassa office where they will complete a claim form so the matter may be investigated.

“Alternatively, beneficiaries can call the Sassa call centre where the staff will record all relevant details and refer the matter for investigation. Where beneficiaries have not authorised deductions or for the details to be used by others, the deducted amounts will be paid back to them.”

Shivani Wahab, spokesperson at Sassa Western Cape, says beneficiaries should not respond to SMS messages offering airtime, electricity and other services.

“By responding to these messages, beneficiaries are actually taking on a ‘subscription’ service and the amounts will be deducted off the bank account,” Wahab explains. She adds beneficiaries should also not use their grant cards as security for loans or to purchase any financial services products.

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