Best-practice Tracing for Unclaimed Benefits
Ntombizethu Sibisi, Business Development Manager, Fairheads Financial Services
It is no secret how dire the situation is in South Africa regarding unclaimed benefits. Unfortunately this attracts fraudsters who try to intervene and receive the benefit due to the legitimate beneficiary.
When it comes to retirement funds, if a member dies, the fund has a duty to ensure that the benefits due to the dependants of deceased retirement members are paid to them. These benefits have the potential to improve the lives of members and their families, pay for children’s education and provide opportunities for economic growth and security.
The retirement fund will try to find the family but often it is too difficult as they do not have the skills. This is where specialised tracing agents come into the picture.
Here are 10 best-practice tips that retirement funds or their tracing agents may wish to communicate to their members and the families who lose their loved ones – to help avoid fraud.
1. Be alert if the SMS or email does not name you by name.
2. Beware if the message contains only a cellphone number and comes from a Gmail address.
3. Check that the SMS contains the name of the tracing company and is not simply an individual trying to contact you. The company should identify its name and encourage you to visit their website and call them on a landline number. Visit their website to see if they genuinely exist and are reputable.
4. Scammers will often not know the company where your relative worked; nor will they know what date he or she passed away, the position they held and the dates of employment. A genuine tracing company will generally have this information but they may not discuss this with you until you have made your own checks. If you are still suspicious, the tracing company may even send you a letter from the fund or company where your family member worked.
5. If you had a relative who was a deceased retirement fund member, contact the employer and speak to the HR department. Tell them that you have been contacted by someone saying you have an inheritance due to you. Then tell the HR department as much as you know, such as the date of death of your family member, and the dates of employment at the company. Ask the HR department if there are any unclaimed benefits due to you. They will make contact with the fund to confirm.
6. Do not fill in ANY forms until you know you are dealing with a legitimate tracing agent.
7. A legitimate tracing company will NEVER ask for your bank account details, until all the proper checks have been made.
8. A legitimate tracing company will never ask you for an upfront tracing payment. Rather, if you are successfully traced, the retirement fund will deduct a tracing fee from the amount due to you.
9. If you are suspicious and do not return the call given in the SMS or email, a good tracing agent will keep a record of contact with you and follow up with you after a few weeks. This will give you some trust that you are dealing with a company that is serious.
10. Not many people know that there is also a large database on the website of the Finance Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA), the regulator that helps to govern the financial services sector. You can see if your name is on that list as a person who is owed unclaimed benefits.