Special Assignment

Debit Order Fraud

“I was very frustrated. I was calling them daily to find out what the issue is, that I need my money back. And they were very rude – their attitude was one of ‘there’s no way you’re getting your money back, there’s nothing we can do.”

Noah Nyatlo recounts his ordeal at the hands of Hemisphere Life, a company in Durban, owned by SGK Investments, which took money from him in the form of unauthorised debit orders. The company claims they are a direct marketing company. More than a year of unsuccessfully trying to get his money back, a frustrated Noah had given up, until Special Assignment stepped in and tracked down Hemisphere Life.

Like Noah, thousands of South Africans entrust their banks with safe-guarding their money. But very few people scrutinize their bank statements to keep track of where their money is going. If you’re one of those people, you might be in for a shock. Some unscrupulous companies operating in the call centre space might just be helping themselves to your hard earned cash without you knowing it – through illegal debit orders.

“For me it’s the one form of consumer injustice that really gets under my skin because it’s just too shocking for words. And just the thought of those hundreds and thousands pouring into someone’s account illegitimately – I actually can’t bear it”, says Wendy Knowler, a consumer journalist in Durban who has been following this matter for years.

The majority of these companies are based in Durban. They deduct anything from R47 – R349, which seem like small amounts, but because so few people check their bank statements, this kind of fraud is virtually undetected.

This week’s Special Assignment exposes some of the unscrupulous companies involved in the ‘R99’ debit order scam and the shocking business of the illegal sale of sensitive consumer data consisting of banking account details and ID numbers of unsuspecting consumers.

Watch Special Assignment as we investigate this type of fraud in South Africa and what can be done to curb this crime. Sunday night on SABC 3 at 20h30.