Shock after fraudsters steal duo’s identities to upgrade cellphones

2015-02-24 00:00

TWO Pietermaritzburg locals were shocked to discover their identities had been stolen to upgrade cellphone ­contracts worth R7 000.

The two locals, Dr Bianca van den Berg and Louise Whittal, both had their identity documents compromised in January this year and they fear there could be more trouble to come.

Van den Berg, now a doctor in Port Shepstone, said she first realised something was wrong in mid-January when a message popped up on her tablet saying a sim swap was in progress.

“My phone switched off and then an SMS showed up on my tablet that said a sim swap was in progress,” she said.

“I immediately went into a Vodacom store and they said I had authorised a swim swap at a store in Hillcrest.

“I asked for a print-out of the ID and saw another woman’s photo on my identity documents.”

Van den Berg said she was shaken to the core and is now worried about what the identity thief might do next.

“How many other accounts has this woman opened in my name? I went to the police and they referred me to Home Affairs but because I am a doctor, I haven’t been able to get to them yet.”

Pietermaritzburg-born Louise Whittal, who is now a teacher at Thomas Moore College, contacted Van den Berg immediately when she saw her post on Facebook with the photo of the same woman who had stolen her identity.

Whittal said her phone switched off one day in mid-January but she was not worried at the time as she was due for a cellphone upgrade and thought ­Vodacom might have deactivated her account.

While sitting in a Vodacom store the next day waiting to upgrade her phone, she was told she had already been upgraded the previous day at the Kloof Village Mall.

Whittal said she had to go through customer care and write out an affidavit to prove she had not upgraded the contract before it was discovered someone had used her ID to take out a contract on a R7 000 cellphone.

She said she showed the fraudster’s photo to some students the next day and they confirmed the woman had worked in a restaurant in Hillcrest.

Whittal said she had given all the information to Pinetown SAPS and was waiting for the next step to be taken.

Vodacom communications manager Ashleigh Dubbelman said the act of compromising another person’s details to process a sim swap often led to fraud in Internet banking.

“In a nutshell, once the fraudsters have your Internet banking details and the bank account/s into which the ­stolen money can be transferred, a sim swap will need to be auctioned in order to receive the one-time pins sent to the banking client via SMS.

“We perform about a quarter of a million sim swaps per month of which about 0,01% are investigated for ­potential fraud. However, the actual incidence of fraud is even lower than this,” she said.


IDENTITY theft is a scary reality and is becoming more and more common each day.

The South African Banking Risk ­Information Centre has put together a list of ways one can avoid identity theft and prevent fraud from occurring:

• Protect your personal information at all times and manage it wisely.

• When destroying personal information, burn or shred it. Do not just tear it up and throw it away.

• Store personal information safely and keep pins and passwords confidential.

• Always pay attention to account cycles and verify all requests for personal information.

• Do not use Internet cafes to do banking.

• Should your ID or drivers licence go missing or is stolen contact SA Fraud Prevention Service at 086 010 1248 and report it to the ­police immediately.

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