An Ottery pensioner is warning other seniors and grant recipients to be cautious when borrowing money.
June Mctavish, 67, was asked by her daughter to take out a loan for R800. Although hesitant, Ms Mctavish made her way to a loan shop called African Brother in Ottery in January where she was given a form to fill out to complete the transaction, and was handed the R800 in cash.
Ms MsTavish expected to pay R550 over two months to pay off her loan.
“My daughter was in need so I decided to help her knowing the interest I’d have to pay. When I received my pension money in February I only got R767,” said Ms MsTavish.
When she enquired with African Brother they told her she still owes over R800 for a loan of R1 200.
Puzzled, she left the loan shop and asked Ward 66 councillor William Akim for help.
Mr Akim accompanied Ms Mctavish to the shop and after some investigation, found out that a consultant at the loan store had cashed out R1 200 instead of R800, which was the amount requested by the pensioner.
“What this teller did was con Ms Mctavish out of her pension money. She filled out a form for the amount of R1 200, had Ms McTavish, who has weak eyesight, sign the form, cashed it and pocketed the R400 for herself. Ms McTavish has to pay back the loan of R400 more than she received as well
as the extra interest,” said Mr
He said five other pensioners complained about being deceived on the same day.
When Southern Mail visited the shop last week, the consultant who had allegedly conned pensioners was not available.
The manager, who did not want to be named, said the woman does not work there anymore following the complaints.
“I am very concerned because how many other pensioners were conned? People are targeting the most vulnerable in our community for their money. This is very sad because pensioners are already struggling to make ends meet. If they take loans they pay ridiculous amounts on interest,” said Mr Akim.
He advised all pensioners not to make loans.
Ms McTavish, who lives with her unemployed son, said she will never take out a loan again.
“When I found out I had been robbed I cried. For the two months I will only get R700 which I must use to buy food, pay rent, electricity and other debt that I made to make up for the money that I lost. I hope other people learn from my mistake and don’t take out loans,” said Ms McTavish.
An official complaint was not reported to the police or the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), which pays out social grants including state pensions.
Sassa spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi said the Sassa payment card operates like most bank cards and social grant beneficiaries are able to enter into debit order agreements for products or services to have payments taken from their accounts.
“The challenge faced by Sassa is that in some cases, the financial products are sold to social grant beneficiaries without them understanding the full implications of what they are agreeing to. When the grant is paid, the loan repayments come off before the beneficiary can access the grant, then the beneficiary complains to Sassa. Sassa has gone out of its way to resolve these complaints, in order to assist the beneficiaries,” he said.
Mr Letsatsi said the only direct deduction from a social grant which is permitted is a deduction for funeral policy premiums which is managed under Regulation 26 (A) of the Social Assistance Act 2004.
“The regulation allows for one deduction, which may not exceed 10% of the value of the grant from the adult grants which includes old age, war veterans and permanent disability grants only.
“We provide social grants which are intended to provide a financial support for those who have zero or very little income, to ensure that they have the means to provide the basics for their survival. Anything which erodes the value of the social grant is not supported by Sassa in any way,” said Mr Letsatsi.
The public is advised to contact Sassa on 0800 60 10 11 if uncertain about anything.