In South Africa, there are still R47,3 billion in unclaimed retirement funds. The Actuarial Society of South Africa warns, however, that there are those who will exploit this fact for fraudulent purposes (ASSA).

According to Jeanine Astrup, an ASSA member and consulting actuary, pension funds are seeking to distribute billions of dollars in unclaimed retirement funds while simultaneously warning the public not to fall victim to scammers.

It is difficult to return money to pension fund beneficiaries or their descendants because they must provide tracing agents with information that verifies their identity.

Astrup understands that people may be hesitant to accept money over the phone if they are required to provide personal information such as identification and bank account information to facilitate the payment of benefits.

“Given the prevalence of scams, it is not surprising that members are dubious when, out of the blue, they receive a phone call or email informing them that an employer they left five, ten, or even twenty years ago would like to pay them money,” explains Astrup.

She explains that retirement funds have a very difficult time reuniting people with their benefits when tracing agents’ legitimate efforts are simply disregarded.

Astrup provides the following advice for avoiding fraud:

The agent will have information about you. If you receive a text message that claims you have unclaimed benefits, but it does not contain your name, it is likely a scam.

Request a number that you can use to call someone back if you receive a phone call. All legitimate callers will have no trouble providing you with a return phone number.

Ask the tracing agent what company they are tracing for and what the company’s previous name may have been. If you did not work for that company, you are not entitled to a benefit.

Ask the tracing agent for a letter from the company they are tracing for, perform an internet search to verify that the tracing agent is a legitimate company, and ensure that the email address includes the tracing agent’s name if you receive an email.

Call the pension fund and inquire whether they are conducting a tracing operation. The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) website contains contact information for every pension fund’s chief executive officer.

To facilitate the payment of your benefits, according to Astrup, tracing agents must request personal information such as identification and bank account details.

“If you suspect the request may be a scam, request the administrator’s email address so that you can send the requested documents directly to the administrator. Again, verify that the email address is not a free webmail service such as Gmail or Hotmail.”

She also emphasizes that a tracing agent will never require your bank account login information or PINs.

Those interested in determining whether they will receive pension funds do not need to wait for a tracker to locate them. They need only contact the FSCA to determine if they are owed money.

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