A local pensioner fears her banking details were sold to unscrupulous companies, after she noticed debit orders on her account that she never authorised. Sandra Blessie (70), who lives in an old age home, has opened a charge of fraud after she noticed that four unknown companies — all of which have exactly the same contact numbers — have been debiting her account for at least six months. Blessie said she got suspicious when her rent payment for October failed to go through. “I withdrew my statement and found four amounts taken out of my account on September 28,” she added.The four amounts were small, and amounted to R238. Blessie said: “I think they take several small amounts so you don’t notice it. Because I don’t check my statements — who does? You just keep track of the larger amount and you won’t notice when small amounts are taken.”After Blessie checked out statements from earlier this year, she discovered the amounts taken– by the companies have been steadily increasing per month.“I wanted to scream. I went straight to the bank and they told us they were aware of this kind of thing. They told me they could reverse transactions within 40 days and reversed the ones for September. “But I saw on October 30 that I was debited yet again,” she added.Staff at Standard Bank told Blessie that she cannot stop the debit orders once they are in place.“And what’s worse is that if they make a debit order and there aren’t enough funds, the bank can charge R110 because the transaction bounced,” she said, adding that the bank advised her to open a criminal case.“I only managed to check my statements for the last six months, so this could have been going on for much longer. “It’s stressful because I don’t have that much money anyway; it comes in my account then goes. Luckily I have a car and can go to check my accounts, but what about those who can’t?“These companies target pensioners like me because we don’t know much about technology and don’t check our statements.”Police confirmed a case of fraud was under investigation.Standard Bank said it had contacted the companies in question and they insisted they were legitimate debit orders that Blessie authorised. The bank advised Blessie to get in touch with the companies. The Payments Association of South Africa (Pasa), a body which formulates payment criteria, meanwhile, is looking at launching a new authentication method to curb “debit order abuse”.DebiCheck will allow consumers to electronically confirm to their bank that they are in the process of doing business with a company or another person. The consumer will get a chance to confirm that the money should indeed be paid by the bank. Pasa advised consumers who fall victim to debit order abuse to first contact the company which took the money, and then the bank to query the debit order.