File picture: David Ritchie

 Cape Town - The ongoing fraud involving social grants by “syndicates”, which has left many South African State Security Agency (Sassa) beneficiaries angry and insecure, appears to originate from the Western Cape.

This is according to Sassa service provider Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), after it launched an intensive internal investigation following numerous complaints from beneficiaries about unauthorised deductions from their social grant payments.

Read: Elderly hit by scammers in Eastern Cape

Several incidents have been reported in the Western and Eastern Cape this week. About 0.5 percent of 5.4 million beneficiaries were affected.

Hanover Park pensioner Devinish Domingo believes he fell victim to the scam after money was twice deducted from his Sassa account.

The 72-year-old grandfather of seven said he received a call from a woman claiming to be a Sassa official, who wanted his PIN.

Read: Sassa scam ‘puts country at risk’

“Three months back, just before Christmas, I got a call from someone from Sassa wanting my ID number and PIN number because in our townships they hand out (food) hampers.”

He said he was not concerned when giving out his PIN because there was no money in his account and he was going to change his PIN the following day.

“I changed the number, but money was stolen from me. No one has seen my new PIN.

“I got an affidavit. I went to the police station again and they said I must give more details,” said Domingo.

Read: ‘We have had enough of SASSA scams’

CPS confirmed that money had been deducted from Domingo’s account and said it was in contact with him.

Net1 executive officer Serge Belamant said the scheme appeared to focus mainly on electricity resales and targeted homeowners.

“The most vulnerable are affected because they are the ones that selected biometric verification as their only method of payment verification, but who were then forced to select a PIN,” Belamant said.

CPS has blocked all “compromised accounts” and will require biometric verification and a reset of the PIN. About 8 000 disputed transactions have been refunded.

“I would like to highlight a further point mentioned in our (press) release, namely that the compromise is largely due to the fact that many beneficiaries were mandated to select a PIN against their own wishes as the banking rules and regulations do not allow biometric verification as a card verification method (CVM).

“It was clear if biometry was used exclusively. No one except the beneficiaries themselves could transact on any payment channel.”

Sassa spokesperson Kgomoco Diseko said a process was under way to introduce legislation that will make it difficult for service providers to institute debit orders on social grant accounts.

“In some cases these fraudsters use the ‘proof of life modus operandi’ by visiting homes, producing forged Sassa ID cards and informing their victims that they are doing inspections to confirm whether the card holder is still alive,” said Diseko.

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Cape Times