‘I’m not dead! I’m alive!’

2020-01-03 14:43
The onus of proving identity theft lies with consumers, an academic has said. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The onus of proving identity theft lies with consumers, an academic has said. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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“I’m not dead! I’m alive! Please give me my life back!”

That is the desperate plea from a Hilton mother, Aphiwe Nyathi, who has been left shocked to the core, after discovering that an alleged fraudster submitted a fake death certificate, using her identity number, in hope of cashing in thousands of rands in a funeral policy.

Nyathi (28) said she was horrified to learn that she “died” on October 29 in Richmond. She said the nightmare started on December 2, when she received a call from the funeral cover company to check if she was really “dead”.

“The lady at the funeral cover company in Johannesburg called me and told me that she was busy processing a claim. She said my ‘mother’ had put forward a claim because I had died. I was amazed.

“I thought it was a prank. She [the company consultant] told me that I had taken out a life insurance policy and nominated my ‘mother’ as the beneficiary. “My biological mother died in 2002,” a distraught Nyathi told The Witness.

She said she had never heard of the insurance company or taken out a funeral cover with them. The funeral policy was taken out on January 17, and Nyathi is registered as the policyholder.

She was covered for R75 000.

However, the policy was registered using Nyathi’s old ID number.

In August, the mother of two discovered that Home Affairs had erroneously allocated her with two identity numbers on the population register.

One of the ID numbers was subsequently deleted from the system.

“She [the fraudster] took out the policy using my old ID number and the insurance company could not process the claim as my new ID number came up.

“She [the fraudster] needed to produce a copy of my new smart card ID, for the claim to be processed, which she didn’t have,” she said.

In an affidavit the fraudster submitted to the insurance company, which was seen by The Witness, she states that she had looked for Nyathi’s smart card ID and could not find it.

Nyathi’s worst fears were confirmed by the insurance company, which sent her documents, including a local doctor’s medical certificate and death certificate, with her name and ID number.

She said she was advised to go to the police station to get an affidavit, however, the police told her to first go to the Department of Home Affairs, to check her status.

“I was dead, according to the Home Affairs. I didn’t exist on the system. I got the fright of my life when the officials informed me that according to their records, I’m deceased.

“Apparently, I was buried somewhere in Richmond. I told them that was impossible because I’m alive and well ... I’ve never been buried inside any grave before,” Nyathi said showing The Witness her fake death certificate.

The death certificate states that she died of natural causes. This certificate bears the stamp of the Department of Home Affairs in Richmond.

“The insurance company said they will not be opening a case against her, because they haven’t lost anything. They said I should open a case because she stole my identity,” Nyathi said.

Out of desperation, Nyathi even contacted the fraudster by phoning the contact number she listed on the policy.

“I spoke to her. I said you are speaking to Aphiwe. Why did you do this? Why did you steal my identity?

“She said, ‘I was given your identity number and told that you were bed ridden and could die anytime’ and dropped the phone.”

She said the ordeal has left her life in havoc and caused her “immense emotional distress”.

“My daughter starts Grade R and I can’t even go to register her, my husband will have to do it,” she said.

“What am I supposed to do? I’m looking for work every day and I have been sending job applications. My life is at a standstill. Being dead is not helping,” she said in despair.

Xolani Maphumulo, Pietermaritzburg Home Affairs manager said his office was currently dealing with three other similar “death” cases, linked to the Richmond area.

He said victims of identity theft should report all cases so that police can look at patterns and start connecting the dots. Regarding Nyathi’s case, Maphumulo said: “We will provide comprehensive feedback once the investigation has been finalised, which includes going through the records.

“Once we have gone through the records to verify if she didn’t share her ID number with anyone, we will speak to the death section to revive her status on the system.

“She will get her life back without a problem,” added Maphumulo.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  identity theft

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