The painful process of recovering from an Identity Theft

Posted on May 5, 2012

The last while has been a painful hassle filled experience. It seems that somebody (or bodies) stole my identity and opened accounts at Truworths and Identity in my name. They bought goods for thousands of rands, and of course never paid any of it back.

Then the phone calls and SMSs start, and they go on an on and on. They start by asking me for my personal information (which I refuse to give) and then proceed to tell me I owe this money, which I refute. They don’t listen to what I am saying, seem not to record it on whatever system they use to keep track of calls, and just keep calling and SMSing. I am on the stubborn side, so when these people tell me what I have to do, (go to police station, make affidavits, send copies of ID and proof of this and that) I simply say no, I have no contract with you, haven’t done any of this so I am not doing your bidding. Perhaps a less than sensible approach, I’m not sure. Perhaps if the call centre agents did more this could be avoided.

This all came to a head a few weeks ago, I tried to take out a new cell phone contract and was then told that my request had been declined. I must call TransUnion ITC. This I then did and ended up with a less than satisfactory experience. The whole thing had now snowballed and I was listed for :

  • Debt owing to Truworths
  • Debt owing to Identity
  • A trace alert for some debt collection agent (acting on behalf of one of the above) who could not get hold of me (i.e. I refused to call them back in response to SMS’s sent to me) – the cheek of it!

On many calls to TransUnion ITC I found out that this is all governed by the National Credit Act. TransUnion representative love to say that they operate in terms of this legislation and I must do X or Y in terms of it. However, once I had downloaded it and read it, and seen what my rights were in terms of the Act and how they were supposed to behave, then I found that the representatives of TransUnion ITC actually hadn’t read the act in their recent past, didn’t know the Act and couldn’t tell me why they hadn’t behaved in terms of the act.

I also discovered that their supervisors take an awful lot of loo breaks, smoke breaks and generally over the course of a Saturday morning/afternoon are never available when they should be, and that despite promised to have them call back they just don’t. Really bad customer service. Makes me wonder whether a) the call agents were covering for dudes who aren’t at work or b) the supervisors don’t know how to deal with customers who ask awkward questions so just don’t call back and then have the call agents lie to customers when asked. Either way a pretty unsatisfactory situation.

Download yourself a copy of the National Credit Act of 2005 here. You can also visit the site of the National Credit Regulator (NCR) here.

Some key extracts here :

62. Right to reasons for credit being refused

62. (1) On request from a consumer, a credit provider must advise that consumer in writing of the dominant reason for- (a) refusing to enter into a credit agreement with that consumer;
(2) When responding to a request in terms of subsection ( l ) , a credit provider who has based its decision on an adverse credit report received from a credit bureau must advise the consumer in writing of the name, address and other contact particulars of that credit bureau.

All credit to Makro here, they provided me with immediate verbal feedback on the fact that my credit had been rejected on the basis of an adverse report from TransUnion ITC, and even gave me the (wrong) phone number for them. They tried to be very helpful. Any credit provider rejecting you has to tell you why, if they won’t, insist on it.


66. Protection of consumer credit rights

66. (1) A credit provider must not, in response to a consumer exercising, asserting or seeking to uphold any right set out in this Act or in a credit agreement –
(a) discriminate directly or indirectly against the consumer, compared to the credit provider’s treatment of any other consumer who has not exercised, asserted or sought to uphold such a right;
(b) penalise the consumer;

This one is interesting. I have yet to go back to a credit provider after having filed all the documentation so haven’t yet had a need to do this. The consultant at TransUnion ITC did advise me however that I shouldn’t bother trying to take out a contract while a dispute was underway, as although the law says it can’t be held against me, I won’t be given credit. Mmmm, more on this later.


70. Credit bureau information

70(2) A registered credit bureau must-

(a) accept the filing of consumer credit information from any credit provider on payment of the credit bureau’s filing fee, if any;
(b) accept without charge the filing of consumer credit information from the consumer concerned for the purpose of correcting or challenging information otherwise held by that credit bureau concerning that consumer;
(c) take reasonable steps to verify the accuracy of any consumer credit information reported to it;
(i) not knowingly or negligently provide a report to any person containing inaccurate information.

Point (c) above says that TransUnion should take reasonable steps to verify the accuracy of information reported to it. When I asked them what they had done to verify information, they said they had done nothing. Since the info was provided by “reputable” companies they don’t check anything. I’m pretty sure that this is not in accordance with the letter or spirit of (c) above. Further, now that I have lodged a complaint against the false information against my name, if they provide any incorrect information to another credit provider then I am pretty sure they will be acting contrary to clause (i) above too.

72. Right to access and challenge credit records and information

72. (1) Every person has a right to-
(a) be advised by a credit provider within the prescribed time before any prescribed adverse information concerning the person is reported by it to a credit bureau, and to receive a copy of that information upon request;
(c) challenge the accuracy of any information concerning that person-
(i) that is the subject of a proposed report contemplated in paragraph (a); or
(ii) that is held by the credit bureau or national credit register, as the case may be, and require the credit bureau or National Credit Regulator, as the case may be, to investigate the accuracy of any challenged information, without charge to the consumer; and
(d) be compensated by any person who reported incorrect information to a registered credit bureau or to the National Credit Register for the cost of correcting that information.

(3) If a person has challenged the accuracy of information proposed to be reported to a credit bureau or to the national credit register, or held by a credit bureau or the national credit register, the credit provider, credit bureau or national credit register, as the case may be, must take reasonable steps to seek evidence in support of the challenged information, and within the prescribed time after the filing of the challenge must-
(a) provide a copy of any such credible evidence to the person who filed the challenge, or
(b) remove the information, and all record of it, from its files, if it is unable to find credible evidence in support of the information, subject to subsection (6).

(5) A credit bureau or the National Credit Register may not report information that is challenged until the challenge has been resolved in terms of subsection (3)(a) or (b)

Section 72(1)(a) says the credit providers are supposed to notify me that they are blacklisting me and give me a copy of the information. They never did this. Perhaps they sent it to the fraudulent person, however, I don’t live at that fake address. I own a house, the details of which would be on my credit record since I still have a bond on it. Surely they can put two and two together. Seems they couldn’t be bothered. Either skip that step, or do enough to cover themselves without actually doing what is intended.

In terms of the above, I had to lodge a challenge (c), which I did. TransUnion required copies of my ID, Proof of address, three copies of my signature, and an affidavit from the local police station stating that I did not incur the debt. I did all of these, still waiting for the 20 working day period to receive confirmation that it has now been removed. In this 20 days it will be up to Truworths and Identity to provide evidence to the contrary. Let’s see how this plays out.

Section (5) above is also interesting. In terms of this, TransUnion can’t report any of the challenged information until such time as the challenge is resolved. Great, since I am challenging the adverse reports on my credit record, my record must then be clean, right? Wrong, or so it seems. Despite the clause above the friendly consultant happily told me about the “get out of jail free” mechanism that the credit bureau’s and credit providers have dreamed up. So, since the bureau can’t tell the provider about the issues under dispute, they simply “block” the whole account by telling the provider it has been “flagged” as dispute. What? Yep, that’s right. Since I have challenged the false information against me, my credit record is now flagged in such a way that I can’t get credit. Seems pretty damned unfair to me. Other than being against the spirit of section (5) above, it also seems to be against Section 66(1)(b) which said that I shouldn’t be penalised for exercising my rights in terms of the Act.

After lodging all my documentation, it took TransUnion a couple of days to process the documentation faxed through. So much for being able to apply again the next day. I received a confirmation SMS that the “trace” against me had been removed. Though I neglected to say above that it took a 15m argument with a call centre agent and a discussion with their supervisor, pointing out the clauses above, and again pointing out that I had the right to dispute anything on my record, and they had a duty to check the accuracy of information, before they would agree to remove the trace.

When I get time (probably next weekend) I will try and apply again for credit. Partly because I am trying to get rid of Vodacom as a service provider (see earlier posts) and partly because I am curious to see if TransUnion ITC are actually blatantly breaking the law as their call centre agents seem to be implying.

I am interested in hearing from others who may have had similar experienced. Just how widespread is this? And what has your experience been with both the credit providers and TransUnion ITC?

P.S. I am still waiting for that supervisor to call back 2 weeks later. That’s a terribly long toilet break, perhaps somebody should be sending a search and rescue team, he must be pretty constipated in there.

P.P.S. I am not a lawyer. I have listened to people from various service providers and read the law (quoted above), which seems to be more than I can say for them. They may well have a whole bunch of lawyers who are smarter than I, and found ways around the law, or are just taking a chance that most consumers don’t have a copy of the law and wouldn’t have read it. Still, read it for yourself, and if you are acting on the above in a way which is going to prejudice you, rather consult a lawyer first.

 

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Categories: National Credit Act, Privacy, Security


One Response

  1. The painful process of recovering from an Identity Theft 2 | j-j.co.za:

    […] = 'jjza';A short while back I wrote about my experiences with having my identity stolen –  and with Truworths, Identity and collection agencies hassling me for payment on accounts […]

    03.06.2012 15:33 Reply

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