Widespread scam targets debt-strapped consumers
South Africa, 12 February 2013 – “Do not pay anything up front until you have had a service of some value.”
This is the earnest warning to all consumers from Sharon Coppola, legal risk and compliance executive at information services group Experian SA.
It is a cautionary message prompted by a scam that has cost beleaguered consumers many thousands of rands since it started doing the rounds in recent months. Coppola also urges people to contact a credit bureau and get a free copy of their credit report to understand how they can manage their credit rating instead of falling prey to these scams.
Recounting the story of a victim who recently approached Experian for assistance, Coppola tells of a woman who desperately needed a second-hand car and advertised on public internet sites, in the process highlighting the difficulty she was encountering as a result of her poor credit rating.
She was then approached via email by someone who wrote that the same thing had happened to him; that he knew of an organisation that could help her; that he would arrange for her to receive a contact address.
Soon thereafter she was furnished with an internet email address, with which she engaged. Help was offered contingent upon her receiving a favourable credit record – which, the identity behind the email assured her, could be obtained upon payment to him of R3 000.
“Once I am able to secure a clean credit record for you, I can have your car ready and waiting.”
To illustrate its bona fides, the scam syndicate sent her a host of documentation liberally festooned with the logos of credit bureaus, the ombud, and a leading commercial bank.
“The forms were pseudo and the logos were reproduced from branded material readily available to the public,” says Coppola.
Once the R3 000 had been paid, the fraudsters closed their internet account and the account into which the money was paid. Unsurprisingly, the further impoverished consumer never heard from the perpetrators again.
She called Coppola to recount her dreadful experience.
“The saddest thing of all is that those who fall for the scam are those least able to afford the R3 000, since they cannot get credit anywhere else. In this particular case, the family lost their house. All they were trying to do was to get a cheap second-hand car in order to get around.
“We brought the scam to the attention of forensic investigators who said there was little they could do to track down the perpetrators because they hid behind a public website address. In effect, she lost R3 000 and she will never get it back.
“Alas, it is not the first time it has happened, and probably won’t be the last.”
As a service to the public, Experian is doing its level best to create awareness among consumers.
“Be warned; do not fall for this scam,” Coppola urges. “There are clever syndicates behind this carefully premeditated scam; syndicates that troll the web for debt-strapped consumers. Do not pay anything up front until you have had a service of some value.”
She emphasises the consumer’s right to go to a credit bureau before resorting to desperate measures and confirms that credit bureau does not remove information unless, after investigation, there is a legitimate reason for removal.
“A credit bureau like Experian is able to examine a credit rating and advise on how it can be managed, and where possible, improved. As a starting point, simply approach a bureau and request a free credit report. You can challenge the information contained in the report and could arrange for certain of the data to be excised.
“In short, make the bureau your first point of call.”
To access your Experian credit report online and sign-up to receive credit report updates by sms and email, please visit www.creditexpert.co.za. For queries on your Experian credit report please contact Experian Consumer Relations on 0861 10 56 65.
Experian South Africa
011 799 3400
+27 11 506-7333
Experian is the leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to clients around the world. The Group helps businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision making. Experian also helps individuals to check their credit report and credit score, and protect against identity theft.
Experian plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Total revenue for the year ended 31 March 2012 was US$4.5 billion. Experian employs approximately 17,000 people in 44 countries and has its corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and São Paulo, Brazil.
For more information, visit http://www.experianplc.com.