SASSA’s new ID verification process sparks alarm

Biometric identification has been introduced to fight fraud, says agency

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A new identity verification process has been introduced for the Social Relief of Distress grant. Archive photo: Barbara Maregele

  • Beneficiaries of the Social Relief of Distress grant are at risk of their grants being suspended if they fail to complete an identity verification process.
  • SASSA spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi says the process has been introduced to fight fraud.
  • #PayTheGrants says hundreds of beneficiaries have complained and thousands may be affected.

Hundreds of recipients of the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant have complained that they can’t access their grant because of a new identity verification process introduced to fight fraud.

Elizabeth Raiters, from #PayTheGrants, said the organisation has received hundreds of complaints from across the country.

Paseka Letsatsi, spokesperson for the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), said biometric identification had been introduced to stop fraud. SASSA has previously reported high volumes of fraud with the R370-a-month SRD grant.

Since earlier this year, beneficiaries of the grant who change their mobile numbers have had to undergo a biometric ID verification. But now, beneficiaries suspected of committing identity theft or of being victims of identity theft are also expected to do so.

“These include those who have been vulnerable to identity theft at banks,” said Letsatsi. “SASSA works closely with the banks and the South African Fraud Prevention Service to identify these clients.”

“In brief, clients who need to confirm their identity are taken through an electronic Know Your Client process similar to those used at banks.”

“Similar to an application, this is a one-time activity to unlock a blocked account or to make a ‘high risk’ change to the client profile,” Letsatsi said.

Beneficiaries who want to change their mobile number or who have been identified by SASSA as needing verification are expected to contact SASSA to request identity verification. They will be sent an SMS link to an internet page. They are then expected to take a photo of their face and send it back. They will then be notified if the process was successful or not.

For beneficiaries who do not have smartphones which can take photos, or who do not have access to the internet, this can be a problem, says Raiters.

Asked what will happen to the SRD beneficiaries who do not complete the ID verification process, Letsatsi said, “Their grants will remain suspended”.

He did not say how many people might be affected. The number of SRD grant beneficiaries varies between 7.5-million and 8.5-million as recipients are subjected to monthly means tests.

Even some beneficiaries who do have the technology to complete the verification process are concerned that this additional step will delay their grant from being paid on time in June.

Lerverch Pieters has been unemployed since January 2024 and applied for the SRD grant in February. Although he was approved for March, April, May and June, he only received his April payment in May.

“When I checked my status this morning for my June payout to see the date when I’ll be paid, it showed that I need to verify my identity,” he said.

After clicking on the identity verification link, he was notified that an SMS would be sent to his cellphone within two days with a different link. He has not yet received the link.

Pieters and his wife receive the SRD grant, while his daughter receives the R530 child support grant. “We are fully dependent on the grants,” he said.

Since his grant is paid directly into his bank account, he does not understand why SASSA would need to verify his identity. “The relevant cross-checks have been done with your bank account to verify if it’s you, why do they need to verify your identity again?” he asked

Raiters said #PayTheGrants was concerned about the lack of communication from SASSA about the verification process. She said there was also a risk that beneficiaries might not receive the link on their phone from SASSA in time for June payments. “This means thousands of beneficiaries will not receive their SRD grant this month due to this.”

“It is sad that, yet again, beneficiaries have to go hungry and this is without warning from SASSA,” she said.

Raiters said #PayTheGrants had flagged the issue with SASSA but had yet to receive a response.

TOPICS:  Social Grants

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Write a letter in response to this article

Letters

Dear Editor

It is a very good idea but SASSA fails to give us verification messages. We have been waiting over 3 weeks now for a message. This drains us. We truly need this money - a message must sent with 30 minutes!

Dear Editor

I'm not receiving the link from SASSA regarding my identity verification, despite requesting it numerous times. I visited Home Affairs, got the HANIS report, and they gave me a copy of my ID, which I emailed to SASSA, but still no response from them. I'm currently unemployed, and I really need this money to help provide for my home. Since April, May, and now in June 2024, I have not received my money.

Dear Editor

I have been unemployed since December 2022 and I started to apply in May 2023. Some months I got approved and others not becauses my family assisted me with funds to keep on surviving. Even with months approved I never got a pay date from them.

Only in April 2024 did I get paid for the months approved. And just now I get a status that I need to get an ID verification. It has been five days now since requesting the link from SASSA to verify myself. How long will this process actually be?

Dear Editor

It is a very good idea but SASSA fails to give us verification messages. We have been waiting over three weeks now for a message. This drains us. We truly need this money – a message must be sent within 30 minutes!

Dear Editor

Well it's good for fraud so that the money is not being taken by wrong people but SASSA is failing on this one. Maybe they must come up with something easier because I have been requesting my ID verification SMS dololo

Dear Editor

I'm not receiving the link from SASSA regarding my identity verification, despite requesting it numerous times. I visited Home Affairs, got the HANIS report, and they gave me a copy of my ID, which I emailed to SASSA, but still no response from them. I'm currently unemployed, and I really need this money to help provide for my home. Since January 2023 and now in June 2024, I have not received my money.

Dear Editor

Is anyone getting their R370 this month because I'm still pending. How long will the status pend for? This is unreasonable. The money is not enough to begin with but now we have to wait for a verification SMS that never shows up. Then what's the point? Why not go back to the original idea that works?

Dear Editor

I'm not receiving the link from SASSA regarding my identity verification, despite requesting it numerous times. I visited Home Affairs, got the HANIS report, and they gave me a copy of my ID, which I emailed to SASSA, but still no response from them. I'm currently unemployed, and I really need this money to help provide for my home. Since April, May, and now in June 2024, I have not received my money

Dear Editor

I'm very disappointed because SASSA didn't send my Identity verification link and it is already been3 days. I was approved last week and I have been waiting on the SRD grant so that I can buy something to eat for my children, my mother and I. We haven't eaten properly for two days now.

Dear Editor

We can't miss a whole R370 because of fraudsters. We don't have smartphones to take photos with. Please may they make it simple for us to get this money coz now it's not fair and this is discrimination. Others are getting the money while I don't. People pay tax and I don't know why SASSA is so serious about a small amount of R370. Please give the poor people their monies.

Dear Editor

This new SASSA ID verification process is useless and annoying. We have been requesting for three weeks and waiting for the SMS link of verification - to date we have had no response from SASSA. Even the landline provided is not working and no one seems to take responsibility for this maladministration, because they're getting monthly salaries and don't care about the grant recipients. This so-called "prevention of fraud" process is not functional and working and should be abandoned. Continue with the old system.

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