Michael Mokoena is a man in despair. For the past three months, a company calling itself SA Holidays has debited money from his account unlawfully.
Mokoena became aware of this was when a cellphone message notified him that R399 had been deducted from his account.
Enquiries to his bank, Capitec, revealed the money was being taken by SA Holidays. But they had no other information on the company. The deductions took place three months in a row.
“Sometimes you don’t know what to do and you just despair,” the 40-year-old man said.
When it happened again two weeks ago, an angry Mokoena asked his bank to reverse the payment. The bank said it could not help but that he must simply get the amounts reversed each month.
He went to the internet to try to find more information on SA Holidays and was shocked by what he saw.
On the page that was supposed to be the company’s website was an alert warning people to contact the police if they had been finding that a company purporting to be SA Holidays was debiting their accounts.
“I immediately went to the police but they told me that the bank is the only one that can help me,” he said. Capitec’s Charl Nel did not know how Mokoena’s money was being taken.
“We cannot comment on your questions as we are not the originating bank of the debit order. We thus do not have any insight into the origination of the debit order. The only thing in our power is to assist the client. This might indicate identity fraud or the client might be signing debit orders recklessly,” Nel said.
Mokoena is not the only victim. Journalist Pule Makgale received an SMS from his bank last week notifying him that SA Holidays had just debited R299 from his account.
Puzzled, he made an enquiry at his branch - Standard Bank, Southdale. The payment was later reversed.
Investigations revealed that SA Holidays acquired some people’s details genuinely, promising them holiday vouchers, only to disappear with their money.
Ramiki Lebogo and Pieter Henning said they received calls from SA Holidays agents about the vouchers. While R400 was deducted from Lebogo’s account, Henning said R180 a month was taken from his account for six months.
Both said that when they tried to find out when they would be receiving their vouchers, they could not get through to the numbers provided.
Later, they found that the number had been disconnected.
Henning laid a case with the police.
Alex Gotte, owner of the domain www.saholidays.co.za, said a friend advised him to put up that warning on the page after receiving e-mails from many people saying they wanted their money back.
Gotte said he had registered the website with the aim of giving holidaygoers information on B&Bs a few years ago but stopped the business when he realised this information was readily available.