Call for help after account opened without consent

If someone uses your identity number without your permission to open an account it’s fraud, even if it’s your sister-in-law.

And if they buy a product online it’s worse because HomeChoice, for one, does not have measures in place to verify the purchaser’s ID.

Even though this is required by the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA), to prevent money laundering and other dodgy business practices.

When Thandi Nkonzo started receiving text messages from HomeChoice about an unpaid bill, she became concerned, especially because she didn’t owe them money nor did she have an account with them, she said.

When the Uitzicht resident began making enquiries, Ms Nkonzo learnt that it was her sister-in-law who made a purchase online using “my ID” and HomeChoice got Ms Nkonzo’s mobile number from XDS credit bureau where her sister-in-law is allegedly listed.

Ms Nkonzo also asked HomeChoice to remove her ID and mobile numbers but they refused to and said the request has to come from the account holder and not a third party.

Even though the account holder was committing fraud.

“A HomeChoice agent, Mark, said the mobile number they have on the system, is the account holder’s, in other words my sister-in-law. But it’s my cell number. When I gave Mark her number he refused to accept it and said it was my responsibility to tell her. On the other hand, customer success specialist, Leighanca Madden claimed that they tried to contact the account holder but couldn’t find her, which is why they used my number. So which number did they use? According to Mark the only number they have on their system is mine,” Ms Nkonzo said.

“Interestingly, HomeChoice only used my number when they failed to reach my sister-in-law. But I started receiving text messages from HomeChoice before then; while the account was being opened, when it was approved and when the order was ready for delivery.

“However, I thought it was a scam as I have never had dealings with them so I deleted the messages. At one stage they wanted me to send a copy of my ID which is when I thought it was a scam. I only realised it was serious when I received text messages about failing to make payments”.

Ms Nkonzo said when the account was opened, HomeChoice had three contact numbers. Her sister-in-law’s, a landline number and “my mobile number for verification” which according to HomeChoice was logged by my sister-in-law with XDS in 2016.

“When I confronted my sister-in-law she claimed that when HomeChoice couldn’t contact her telephonically they went to XDS where they got my number. HomeChoice also violated my rights as a consumer when they used my information they received from the credit bureau. Can you get to the bottom of this?”

Customer success specialist, Lee-Ann Petersen, confirmed Ms Nkonzo’s version of events.

“Ms Nkonzo advised us twice that the mobile number was hers. We tried repeatedly to contact her sister-in-law and when she finally contacted us four months later we removed Ms Nkonzo’s mobile number with immediate effect,” Ms Petersen said.

Lynn McMaster, collections manager, said that during the investigation they identified “opportunities to improve our processes which would have resulted in earlier resolution of this issue”.

“We have removed your mobile number from all our internal databases and you should no longer receive any calls from HomeChoice.

“However, since your details are recorded at XDS Credit Bureau as contact information for your sister-in-law, other credit providers will have access to your number and may contact you.

“You should contact XDS directly to request that your contact number be removed. I apologise for any inconvenience our unwanted telephonic calls may have caused you.

“We will continue to refine our processes and staff training through the feedback we receive,” Ms McMaster said.

Ms Nkonzo said that if HomeChoice had listened to her in the first place, “I wouldn’t have been harassed four or five times a day, for five months for something I had nothing to do with”.

“Thank you for assisting me. It is through you that I got the attention and a formal response from HomeChoice, which I didn’t get as a consumer when I tried myself. This unfortunately demonstrates the power that corporations use to bully their customers. It didn’t have to get to this stage,” said Ms Nkonzo.

Manie van Schalkwyk, executive director of the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS), said, “It is totally illegal to open an account by using somebody else’s information. This is misrepresentation and equates to stealing somebody else’s identity.”

Victims of impersonation fraud can list themselves as victims (free of charge) on the SAFPS database. SMS the word “Protectid” to 43366 – and the organisation will contact the consumer and take them through the process to get listed as a victim of impersonation.

Visit www.safps.org.za or call 011 867 2234 extension 267 or fax 011 867 2315 for help and information.