Unclaimed benefits – the human face

August 2018

Fairheads has launched two unclaimed benefit funds – the Fairheads Unclaimed Benefit Preservation Pension Fund and the Fairheads Unclaimed Benefit Preservation Provident Fund. Below are two case studies where we have been successful in tracing people who had monies due to them.  

Case study 1

Imagine the sense of elation and achievement when we managed to trace a 77-year-old man who is owed R170,000 through an unclaimed benefit dating back to employment some 35 years ago. The client suffers from ill health, lives in a small room and walks with difficulty.

The information passed on to us from the previous administrator was exceedingly scant. We proceeded with a consumer trace and managed to obtain a phone number following which we proceeded with our internal process of making an initial phone call to gather information.

Our client was exceedingly reluctant to offer any information, including his ID, and kept asking “But who is Fairheads?”. We suggested he visits both the Fairheads and FSCA websites. Once we had confirmed his address we even offered to visit him so that he could meet Fairheads officials and be reassured. This he did not want. On account of the sum of money involved, we needed original certified documents which he was unable and unwilling to provide. A breakthrough finally came once we chatted to our client’s brother, who knows Fairheads’ headquarters buildings at No 2 Long Street in Cape Town and was willing to bring our client to our offices. The rapport improved once this happened, but this case study illustrates the challenges in establishing the all-important trust.

Case study 2

A 59-year-old woman had been traced years ago by an external tracing agent used by her previous employer, but contact had been lost. When we took over the case in March 2018, we at least had a contact telephone number. A consumer trace confirmed the information provided by the previous administrator, including her work history. The benefit claim dated back to 1982 and the woman was not aware of the funds due to her (some R6,000).

The process from then on was fairly simple, given email contact and that the client was able to visit a Fairheads walk-in centre to submit completed forms. All that remains is for SARS to provide a tax clearance certificate before we are able to pay out the funds.

Early key learnings
  • Trust is a huge issue. Scamming is rife in South Africa, with most of us having received SMS’s or emails promising all kinds of winnings and inheritances. Some people have fallen for such scams and been hurt. Imagine then that you get a call out of the blue from someone at Fairheads who says there is an unclaimed benefit due to you but cannot give you any details until they are 100% sure they are dealing with the right person. You are expected to give all kinds of personal details upfront to a stranger and understandably would be suspicious.
  • The important issue of trust makes us realize how important the Fairheads brand We can at least refer potential beneficiaries to the Financial Sector Conduct Authority for vouching, encourage them to visit our website, or invite them to visit our walk-in centres for reassurance. We are hopeful that as we continue to succeed in tracing people, so the public will become more familiar with the Fairheads name and know they can trust us. Indeed, if a company outsources their unclaimed benefit administration to us, employees will hear by word of mouth the various successful traces and this will encourage awareness of the possibility of benefits lying unclaimed.
  • Given the difficulty in asking upfront for personal information, we use means over and above those of our standard tracing department to help find out whether we are indeed dealing with the right person. These include:
  • Using Google maps to check addresses
  • Phoning churches or schools to find out whether the family is known
  • Using the website of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) which may provide a link to the member’s last known address by indicating where the member was registered to vote,