In this weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:
Phone stolen? Make the right call
The sad reality is that there’s a very good chance that your cellphone will be stolen – either snatched out of your hand as you’re talking on it in public or hailing a cab, grabbed off your outdoor restaurant table or pickpocketed from your handbag or pocket as you shop. And as awful as it is to lose your phone, that’s nothing compared to losing all the money in your bank accounts – and having your overdraft and credit limit maxed, should the criminals access the bank app on your phone.
So, if you have a bank app on your phone, the moment you realise your precious device is gone, you must take steps to stop it being accessed.
FNB and Absa clients can access their bank account via another device – tablet, laptop or desktop – and then deactivate, or de-link the bank app themselves.
Standard Bank is not there yet – their customers must call the bank’s fraud hotline on 0800 020 600 and instruct the bank to deactivate their digital banking profile and block their accounts. The bank e-mailed clients with this advice this week.
Whichever bank you’re with, take a few minutes to find out, right now, how to de-link the bank app on your phone, so you don’t waste time should you suddenly have your phone taken from you.
In addition, you should also call your cellphone service provider to block your SIM card and handset and ask that all incoming SMSes are blocked, to prevent criminals from getting any One Time Pins (OTPs) which will enable them to add themselves to your account as a beneficiary and transfer funds from your account to theirs.
Please take this warning seriously – I am getting so many e-mails from people whose bank accounts have been cleaned out after the theft of their cellphones.
If you love your family, make a will
Did you know that about 70% of South Africans die without having valid wills in place?
That’s according to John Manyike, head of financial education at Old Mutual. Here’s how he counters all the usual excuses:
“Drawing up a will is expensive.” Not true. There are many options available, and financial institutions and financial planning advisers often offer services for drawing up wills for account holders at minimum or no costs.
“It isn’t necessary because my wife or partner will get everything.” Not necessarily true. In South Africa, if you die without a valid will all your estate will all go to your spouse only, if there are no other descendants. A specific formula is applied if a wife and other descendants survive you.
“I’m too young and don’t have anything to leave anyone, anyway.” As soon as you start earning an income, you begin acquiring items and can accumulate debt. It is wise to have a will so that you can have the control to direct where the money you have will go.
“Wills are only necessary if you are rich.” Not true. A will determines how your assets are shared when you are no longer around. A living will can speak for you if you are disabled and can’t communicate. It can direct what you want to be done and avoid confusion and conflict within a family.
Knowing about debt prescription can save you thousands
We’re all looking to save money, but debts need to be paid, or there will be serious consequences, right? Absolutely, in the case of current debt, but too many South Africans pay debt collectors or law firms for very old debts because they aren’t aware that, legally, they don’t have to.
A client of well-known consumer attorney Trudie Broekmann recently received a letter of demand by e-mail from a law firm which said they act for a cellphone service provider.
He did have an account with the company, which he believes he had settled.
In South Africa, debts lapse or “prescribe” after three years. The National Credit Act makes it illegal for a creditor to collect a prescribed debt from you.
In this case, Broekmann wrote to the attorneys and explained that the debt had long prescribed, and as a result the file was closed.
If you haven’t made a payment, acknowledged the debt in any way (that includes promising to pay at a later date) or been summonsed in respect of a debt in the past three years, it has prescribed and you are not liable to pay it. Don’t be bullied into making payment.