Beware of fraudsters promising unclaimed retirement money
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As thousands of South Africans discover that they might have unclaimed retirement savings owed to them, retirement fund administrators are doing their best to ensure that the process of finding and paying out beneficiaries is as efficient and as safe as possible.
For more than a decade, the retirement fund industry has been trying to ensure that fund members with unclaimed benefits are traced and paid. An estimated 4.8 million South Africans are involved, and at least R42 billion remain unclaimed. The Financial Services Conduct Authority (FSCA) has made some progress in addressing this issue. Since the implementation of its unclaimed benefits search engine, approximately R1.2 billion in asset value has been paid to over 14 000 members after valid claims were submitted to the relevant funds.
Retirement fund managers are aware of incidents of fraud linked to the application process and payments of unclaimed money. Liberty has put in place proactive measures to minimise the risk of fraudulent claims.
“There may be fraudsters who try to take advantage of people applying for their unclaimed benefits. Members have to be aware of such scammers and syndicates who claim to help them get their money," says Kabelo van der Merwe, Unclaimed Benefits Project Lead at Liberty.
Over the past decade, Liberty and the various Boards of Trustees have appointed several tracing agents who have been tasked with finding more than 200 000 beneficiaries whose unclaimed benefits amount to approximately R2,3-billion in total. To date, Liberty has successfully traced and paid over R380 million in assets since 2018 to members and beneficiaries
“In the instance of a legitimate claim, members will not be required to pay anyone an upfront fee or a percentage of their benefit to claim to assist them to locate their benefit. If you are the correct beneficiary, you will only be charged a tracing fee when you receive the pay-out at the end of the process,” she says. Van der Merwe recommends that if you are ever concerned about the conduct of a tracing agent who has contacted you regarding a Liberty-administered retirement benefit, you can call the Liberty contact centre on 011 558 2999 or visit the FSCA website to check if you genuinely have an unclaimed benefit.
Stopping fraud in the future
“We always seek to prevent fraud and do right to assist proper beneficiaries to access their funds,” says van der Merwe. At Liberty, tracing agents are never told the exact amount that a beneficiary is owed - only the required information of a claimant is provided for tracing purposes.
“We also have strict internal processes to ensure that the right beneficiary is paid out. We do the validation of a beneficiary ourselves, and not through tracing agents,” she says.
“Beneficiaries who are rightfully owed money can rest assured that they will get it. It’s safe, and waiting for them to legitimately claim it,” she says.
To report any suspected fraud regarding unclaimed benefits, contact the Liberty Vuvuzela Hotline (0800 63 67 25) or contact the FSCA.