Woman, 91, distraught after money disappears from Sassa account

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(Die Son)
(Die Son)

A 91-year-old woman is "totally distraught" after she tried to draw her pension money from her Sassa card and was told there were zero funds in her account.

Not only has Sunshine Hector been trying to get the money back, but she has also struggled to get answers on where it went.

Hector lives in an old age home in Somerset West, Cape Town, after suffering two strokes in 2011.

Her daughter, Colleen Soares, who she stayed with for just over 30 years before her health took a turn, told News24 that there had been R1 403.59 in the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) account until May 9, 2019.

"When she needed to draw money a week later, there were zero funds in her account and then to top it all when we went to collect her monies the morning after it was deposited from Sassa, being Saturday, 1 June 2019, again there was zero funds," she said.

'Worried it may have happened to others'

Hector's children made sure she did not go short of anything but Soares said it had been very traumatic for her as they tried to get answers from authorities.

"They simply said that they were too new in office to say what had happened. Apparently, there is an investigation under way but nobody says anything and everything is quiet," said Soares.

"My worry is that she was not the only one this happened to and there are many others who may not be in a position where family or friends can help."

In the meantime, the Post Office had opened a new bank account for Hector.

News24 provided Hector's details and account information to Sassa to find out what had happened.

Sassa communications manager Shivani Wahab said the case was "escalated as there were suspected fraudulent activities flagged on her account".

Wahab did not provide further detail on who was suspected to be behind the apparent fraud, what the outcome of the investigation revealed and whether employees were involved.

"In the instance that fraud is suspected on the account of any social grant beneficiary, the card utilised for that account is immediately blocked as a fraud prevention measure."

Wahab said their records showed that Hector was reimbursed with the amounts on August 21 and would be issued with a new card so she could access her funds.

"A home visit can be arranged for Ms Hector by contacting the nearest Sassa local office."

6 000 grant payments stopped

Regarding other beneficiaries affected nationally by fraud, Sassa said 6 000 social grant payments were initially stopped and in August, this was reduced to 500 suspended social grant accounts.

"Sassa went through an intensive process of studying trends linked to social grant fraud. Systems and controls have been tightened. Sassa has a zero tolerance for fraud and we are working with banks and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that fraud within the system is defeated," said Wahab.

On a general note about fraud prevention measures,  Sassa said September was the first month in which they were strictly implementing bank verification to confirm the beneficiary and account holder matched.

It said this had also resulted in a number of beneficiaries not being paid. 

"Sassa would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to clients who might have not received their September grants, as a result of the bank verification process. Sassa appeals to the public to see this as a temporary but necessary inconvenience, given the previously rising numbers of card fraud compromising the efforts of government."

Soares said this week that her mom's Post Office bank account did not reflect a deposit nor a refund other than her last month's pension.

"Absolutely nothing has been paid in."

Sassa has been approached for follow-up comment.

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