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Mystery R99 debit hits SA accounts

Access to the payment universe was granted by Standard Bank.

Recently hundreds of thousands of South Africans – your correspondent included – were hit by mysterious R99 debit orders.

The debit orders were deducted in late October, with the reference ‘Nconnups’. Moneyweb’s attempts to identify the recipient have proven fruitless.

On enquiring with their respective banks, victims of the debit orders were informed that they were processed by Umvuzo Payment Solutions. Umvuzo is a third-party processor of debit orders, which means it debits accounts on behalf of clients. These clients are supposed to be legitimate businesses such as insurers and gyms.

Every third-party debit-order processor must have a sponsor bank. This bank grants access to the payments system. It is the bank’s responsibility to ensure that its client is above board and processes legitimate debit orders.

According to the Payments Association of South Africa, Umvuzo’s sponsor bank is Standard Bank SA.

Umvuzo does not have a website. Our attempts to contact it telephonically have been unsuccessful. The number given by banks to people who dispute Umvuzo’s debit orders – 011 483 1188 – goes unanswered.

Umvuzo’s comments will be added to this article if they are provided.

‘So suspicious’

A source at a big bank (not Standard Bank), who spoke on condition of anonymity, says the Nconnups debit orders were considered so suspicious that the bank took a decision to protect its clients by reversing all of them, regardless of whether they were disputed or not. This amounted to over 150 000 debit orders.

For a rough estimate of the total number of Nconnups R99 debit orders across all ‘big five’ banks, one could multiply 150 000 by five to get 750 000. At R99 each, that makes a total of R74 million. Even if the majority of debit orders are reversed, the potential gains for the mystery recipient are still substantial.

Moneyweb contacted Standard Bank to request the following information:

  • The identity of the mystery recipient
  • Whether Standard Bank intends to reverse all Nconnups debits that affected its own retail clients
  • Whether Standard Bank has initiated an investigation into Umvuzo’s vetting of clients.

Standard Bank provided a response, but did not answer the questions. Instead it detailed what actions victims of debit order abuse should take.

Moneyweb requested an interview with the person at Standard Bank responsible for the Umvuzo account but received no response.

Standard Bank’s full response follows:

Standard Bank is aware of this matter and it is currently under investigation. Standard Bank has and will continue to ensure that any disputed debit orders will be reversed and clients reimbursed. Standard Bank will investigate any legitimate customer complaint and customers are encouraged to call 0860 123 000 to raise a dispute.

Standard Bank regards the safety and security of our customers as crucial and has a zero tolerance approach to fraud of any nature. There are no fees associated with this reversal as long as the transaction is reversed within 40 days of the transaction taking place. Customers who feel that they have been incorrectly debited or charged for a service that they did not subscribe to should also contact the company directly to stop any future debit orders. Customers are also encouraged to lay a criminal complaint with the South African Police Service. In turn, Standard Bank does report any suspicious transactions under strict regulatory guidelines to the relevant authorities.

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“Customers who feel that they have been incorrectly debited or charged for a service that they did not subscribe to should also contact the company directly to stop any future debit orders.”

Can Standard Bank provide working contact details for this company so that clients can contact it?

Every month I have those suspicious debit orders and have to reverse them from month to month. I’m actually frustrated and thinking of changing an account number.

Did you know that it’s impossible to send a debit order request to the bank’s own bank account? Even a 10 cents debit order won’t go through!

Try it if you don’t mind getting arrested.

Its absolutely disgusting, that all debit orders are not authorised first….

When shopping online, you verify a transaction with OTP or on a banking app, to confirm its legitimacy. BUT a debit order just happens and there is no confirmation? How sick and broken is that… Other people have easier access to YOUR account….

Same happened to me at another major SA bank, R99 debit orders by company called Asiphephe. A third party managed these debit orders S.A. Payment. Neither the bank or S.A.Payment was able to provide proof of how/where/when did I give anyone permission to generate these debit orders for “lifestyle packages” that I did not purchase. Asiphephe did not respond to any of my emails and several other persons also lodged complaints about this on Hello Peter. My bank reversed the debit order but stated that it is my responsibility to ensure all my debit orders are legit. There is obviously a loophole in the bank’s debit orders security control system, how can they upload a debit order without proper authorization from the client?

The same happened to me. I disputed this and then they even sent me a telephone clip of the conversation of the transaction being authorised, but obviously not by me. The support person did not take into account age, race and gender.

Apparently they are busy rolling out a system; which you have the option of authorising the debit orders. This cannot come sooner.

My take is the sponsor bank should be penalised. This will force them to scrutinise their association with 3rd part processors.

IT is partly rolled out already for NAEDO type debit order, the name is DebiCheck, being on it is voluntary, so you can be sure the evil doers don’t use it, which makes it pointless at this time.

I suppose while the banks are also making money out of this, they wont find a solution to quickly…

Exactly. I called standard bank to reverse this debit order, infact it was two debit orders on the same day. I wanted to know the name of the company so that I could make sure that I wouldn’t be debited again and they said I would be charged roughly R30 for that information. Standard bank informed me of this suspect company and I was charged roughly R30 for the info. Managed to contact the company and spoke to an operator who informed me that my account number was probably similar to one of their clients and the numbers were mixed up

I went through this, asked Standard Bank to close my old account, and open a new one. When I spoke to the consultant helping me, she said even the Std Bank staff have these mysterious R99 debit orders coming off of their accounts and they WORK there!!

I seriously believe that the banks are also in on this, one way or another.

There must be insider co-operation. That’s a given. The problem is that no one is prepared to dig, because an investigation will cost money, lead to embarrassing disclosures and require firing the corrupt staff and the whole expensive and time-consuming CCMA process. All because it is “only R90” a blind eye is turned. There is scope for an enquiry of Bank Capture coming soon.

From my banking days a debit order is a contract between the customer and the provider of a service (such as an insurance company collecting premiums for an insurance policy). Once the document is signed by the client it was submitted to the clients bank/branch for verification of primary information full names, initials, type of account to be debited, account number, clearing code, and verification of signature in terms of signature on file. The bank was required to confirm this detail under the banks official signature stamp with official name and designation.
If we have moved on from this practice and these steps are not exercised then the entire system is being abused and is open to further abuse. Another problem is that most banks don’t do a signature verification under R 100 so these transactions slip under the radar quite easily , and many of these crooks know what the bank referral thresholds are and will “slip” in these debit orders

The banks also do not generally send SMS notifications for amounts under R100 which is why these crooks process debits for R99.

The banks can track every cent of any electronic money transfer and if they wish they will easily be able to reveal the account details of the final beneficiary. And the identity and address.
That they refuse to reveal this information or state they cannot, tells me they are party to fraud and the directors should be imprisoned as would be a shoplifter who stole a R99 item from a supermarket.
Shame on them!

Nail on the head! This is something OUTA or similar civic organisation can get stuck into. A Google-type engineer could write up a program to do an electronic forensic investigation and root out the rotters in this scam, banks included. The will is simply missing by these directors cashing in massive salaries, fees & bonuses. Watch them move once they become personally liable.

I once threatened to open a case of theft against the bank. My money was back in my account the same day. My point was: I left my money in their care so that it won’t get stolen (as can happen when I leave it under my mattress). Now they actually gave it to a 3rd party without my approval. I just got the name and surname of the supervisor of the bank’s call centre and said I would open the case at saps against him personally. I got instant response.

It happened to my wife – at Standard Bank – haha!

I’ve been a Standard Bank client for 25 years. This past week I made the decision to dump them.

They have offered me nothing of value in those 25 years. There are no differentiators.

All they have done is charge me monthly, give me credit facilities that I never asked for, and push me onto higher plans that I never asked for.

Their call centres are slow and less than sharp when they do answer.

My brother was a victim of card fraud where someone made several debit card payments off his account in Cape Town – while he lives in Johannesburg and never uses his card apart from teller withdrawals.

No thank you. I’ll be heading elsewhere. And definitely not to Absa.

Problem this is symptomatic of ALL the major banks today. You can no longer speak to a decision maker. You speak to interpreters of computer processed decisions. Call centres are designed to test your patience and telephone account limits to their utmost. Then they refer you to yet another party (who will never be a decision maker) to call. You eventually have to give up and go in personally and talk to one of their computers, via the keyboard tapper. Unless you have a fat balance – but that also applies to all banks. Money talks.

Try Capitec. Excellent bank .. excellent service … and low fees. Also very good internet banking app.

To Gismho. Yes, Capitec is really an excellent bank. However, my Capitec savings account also fell prey to this illegal debit order. Local manager assured me verbally that the debit order would be reversed, but for some unknown reason was not prepared to confirm this undertaking in writing. My biggest concern is that this sort of fraud should never have been possible in the first place…. what next??

Even if Standard Bank does provide contact details to a customer, the probability that the customer will get a result is close to zero – as experience nay Moneyweb. No – As far as I am concerned, if the bank is prepared to accept the assurance from a “DO processor” that all is “above board” they MUST accept MY assurance that the DO is fraudulent if I say so. Reverse it and block any future processing. It’s my money and the bank must accept MY instruction over any other party’s. If they don’t like it they must institute a process to double check that I have authorised a third party to process a DO. End of story. I have had numerous arguments and fights about fraudulent debit orders charged to my account and I have spent time, telephone calls, trips to the branch and still treated as if I’m the criminal. That is simply not on. They have all these elaborate systems to have me prove my identity, short of calling for a blood sample to check my DNA, yet these crooks are allowed to casually help themselves to MY money (and in all probability aided by bank insiders selling bank account details – clearly this will never be admitted).

It appears that ALL banks were hit with this scam. I bank with Nedbank and have just discovered a debit made on 18 October …it reflects as a debit made by UPS NCONNUPS15_24125 and is for the amount of R99.
Pretty clever scam! I wouldn’t have paid attention to this but for this MW article so thank you MW for the heads up! Would have been nice if my bank had picked it up and communicated with me and other affected account holders!

I asked ABSA to reverse the transaction, and then asked if they can reverse the same transaction for all clients since it’s clearly fraud, and they were like nah it’s pretty much every man for himself.
I guess as long as they can collect the debit order charges they’re happy

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