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By Alec Hogg
Wasted ten or so minutes yesterday quizzing with a lady who said she was from New Debt Management, which appears to be a boiler room operation that harasses people through SMSes, emails and cell phone calls over allegedly outstanding small debts.
During the past few months I’ve received a number of SMSes and calls on my private phone threatening blacklisting if an apparent R400 debt to Telkom isn’t paid. As I haven’t had a personal account with Telkom for half a decade, it smells to me like a scam.
But yesterday’s call topped even that. A lady who later explained she receives a low basic and an incentive bonus based on how much she recovers, said I owe a television licence fee to the SABC. Having been out of the country for two years mattered not to my persecutor. Unless the SABC had been informed of my departure, she instructed, I am liable.
What rot. But I guess enough people get caught for this awful business to keep plugging away. More seriously, surely such behaviour requires censuring of the SABC for abusing personal information. Surely, in this age of greater protection of our privacy, South Africa has laws against giving cell phone numbers to sweatshop debt collection agencies?
From an anonymous Biznews community member
Your newsletter this morning made me laugh as it has been a constant issue with many of our my staff, this continual harassment with regards to their TV Licence.
My wife had a similar issue when we returned to the UK for a short while, and when we returned back to SA, they immediately demanded that we pay for the three years we were absent from SA. (when we asked to resume paying our licence, “as it’s the right thing to do”).
We informed them that we had been out the country and that our goods were in storage for that period. They were really not interested and handed the account over to a debt collection company. This company harassed my wife for years, and we always explained when they called that we could prove that we were out the country (stamps in passport etc. and that our goods were in storage at the time). They asked us to fax through the proof (please note only a fax number and no email address). However the fax number was always unavailable. Anyway, after a period of time I hired a lawyer who spoke to someone in the debt collections company and they stopped the harassment for a few years. I recently met a chap who worked for the debt collection agency for a period and he explained that the company had bought the bad debt from SABC for 3 cents on the rand, and the company had no interest in whether or not you actually owed the money or not and they all knew the fax number did not work. The idea was to harass the people into paying by threatening them with blacklisting etc.
I agree that this is a complete scam and I bet that if you tried to cancel your licence when leaving the country, you would still face this issue as they would claim to have no record of it. I see that in the UK you can cancel it on a website now. How an “annual” licence can automatically be renewed without your approval should not be right, and the result, none of my junior staff are prepared to start paying the licence because they say that Netflix is the future and all a SABC license brings is trouble to their lives.
You have it right, this is a serious scam, but unfortunately, in comparison to all the other shenanigans going on at present, something that will not get much traction.
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Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.