Keep a beady eye on possible rogue debit orders

debit-order-fraud
debit-order-fraud
When last did you check your bank statement, line by line?

Not only is that a good way to figure out where you can potentially make savings – a better deal on your car insurance, for example – but sadly, there’s a fairly good chance that a rogue debit order has been activated on your account.

No matter how vigilant or sussed you are, the shocking reality is that if you have or have had legitimate debit orders, someone in one of those companies could have sold your name and bank account number on a list with many others, to any number of willing buyers.

In the wrong hands, that information alone can give someone access to your bank account.

Among those wrong hands are rogue call centre agents who, for a commission, will claim to have sold you some service, and in some cases go as far as recording a sales conversation with someone, who is impersonating you, agrees to the debit order and reads out your bank details.

That telesales call recording is called a mandate – “proof” that you agreed to being debited.

Kaylee Booysen, an occupational therapist based in Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal, is among those who’ve had the bizarre, unnerving experience of hearing someone fake her consent.

On checking her bank statement last month, she spotted a R129.99 debit with the words Sage Pay (one of several third party debit order payment operators in SA) and D-votion, an Umhlanga-based company which received that money, minus Sage’s cut.

Alarmed, she checked her previous months’ statements and found an identical debit last September.

Having been sent from her bank to Sage Pay and finally to D-votion, she demanded the call mandate, and that’s how she got to hear the staged call with a woman providing her bank account details in a voice and accent radically different from hers.

She pointed this out to D-votion in no uncertain terms, and demanded a refund of the September R129.99 debit – her bank had reversed the January one, for a fee.

The following week D-votion deposited R260 into her account.

In that faked telesales call, the agent describes the company as a charity organisation “helping poor people by giving them food parcels and doing feeding schemes.”

And Booysen – or the woman pretending to be her – was asked to “donate” that R129.99 a month in exchange for discount vouchers for use at various clothing stores.

Responding, D-votion’s IT manager, Khabir Sha, said during the past 10 years the company had operated 7500 feeding schemes.

Last May it expanded its operations and its call centre and hired a lot of new agents, but a few months later received a tip-off that some of them were putting through fraudulent sales.

A subsequent investigation found out that many were part of a “consortium” moving from call centre to call centre with names and bank account details bought from “illegal data suppliers”.

Of those 40 new call centre agents, only 10 remain, Sha said – three were found guilty of falsifying mandates, and others were suspected of the same and “let go”.

About 80 clients had been refunded, he said, including Booysen.

“Even after her reversal at the bank in January, we refunded her the full amount as compensation for our mistake.

Most of the rogue debit orders were stopped before they were processed, Sha said.

As for why Booysen’s account was debited for a second time, Sha said that was a mistake. “We have assured her that she will never be debited again,” he said.

Unauthorised debit orders are a huge problem – and most of the companies found to be responsible for raiding the bank accounts of South Africans countrywide, are based in Durban. “That’s well known in the industry,” says Sage Pay MD Charles Pittaway.

“We constantly monitor our clients’ dispute ratios to pick up fraud patterns and we help consumers dispute debit orders.

“We also randomly pick 50 debit orders from a company and check the mandates.”

In the past two-and-a-half years, Sage Pay had stopped doing business with 15 companies due to an unacceptable number of fraud disputes, Pittaway said.

“We can’t wait for DebiCheck to be implemented.”

DebiCheck is a new system being piloted by The Payments Association of South Africa, which requires consumers to authenticate, via SMS – a new debit order before it is processed for the first time, as a way of protecting them from rogue debit orders.

So if a bank receives an instruction to debit a customer’s account, and the DebiCheck debit order information can’t be found on its own system, or doesn’t match, that debit order won’t be processed.

It seems the fake telesales calls days are numbered.

WHAT TO DO:

Check every debit on your bank statement every month.

Report any debits you didn’t authorise to your bank as well as to the Payments Association of SA (Pasa), which has the power to blacklist a company, preventing it from debiting any South African bank account. (e-mail pass@pasa.org.za)

And don’t let a bank employee fob you off if you dispute a debit order.

Pasa’s rules require banks to immediately reverse a debit order if a customer disputes it, within 40 days, and to conduct an investigation if older than that.

CONTACT WENDY:

E-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za

Twitter: @wendyknowler

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