A SASSA debit card. File picture: David Ritchie

Johannesburg - Lina Monnaemang first suspected something was amiss when R50 was taken from her pension in September last year – and it didn’t stop there.

Then R70 and R100 were taken. Last month, the amount was R110, and her statement always indicated the money was taken for airtime.

“Airtime? What airtime? Most of our November receipts have this airtime thing on them and I don’t even have a phone. I once had a cellphone but it broke a long time ago. Now I just use a landline,” said the 70-year-old.

Monnaemang is supposed to be getting R1 270 monthly from the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa), and she said that since the deductions began, she has been struggling to pay her bills.

She lives alone in Dobsonville Extension 2, Soweto, and withdraws her pension at the local hall on the sixth of every month.

“When I complain they get annoyed. I told them that my money has been short since September, and they said I should tell the police.”

Monnaemang said she had come across other pensioners with the same problem.

“Another old lady was crying beside me. They took R270 from her pension. She was going to use that money to take a taxi to her hometown. She was also hungry, so I shared my fatcakes with her,” she said.

Monnaemang said she felt that she needed to speak out because the government and police were silent.

Sassa’s acting general manager of communications, Kgomoco Diseko, said they had received similar complaints, and blamed SMS ambush marketing.

“Older people usually don’t have phones, so when we did reregistration, many of them signed up with their grandson or granddaughter’s cell numbers. So when the crooks send an SMS for an airtime advance, of course they’ll accept it,” he said.

“It is thus necessary for beneficiaries to always avoid disclosing their card details.”

If you or someone you know is facing a similar problem:

* Report the matter to the police.

* Make a signed affidavit under oath to the effect that you did not authorise such a transaction.

* Take the affidavit to the nearest Sassa office to lodge a dispute so that the money can be refunded.

* Or fax the affidavit to 0867664758 and request a reversal of those transactions.

For more information, call 0800 60 01 60.

[email protected]

The Star