Sim con targets PSL

2012-10-13 00:00

IS there a serial con artist attacking PSL players and management?

In the last three weeks there have been reports of two players and one technical member from PSL teams who have been the victim of cellphone hacking.

The latest is close to home.

Maritzburg United kit manager Zola Luthuli began experiencing technical problems on his cell phone after United’s 1-0 loss to Wits last Friday.

On Saturday morning, Luthuli visited Vodacom’s Midlands Mall branch where he said he was told that he had a software problem. His phone was kept in for repairs.

But while Luthuli was unable to use his phone after Friday’s match and on Saturday, his wife, who lives in Cape Town, had sent him a message via Whats App.

“She sent me a message on Friday night asking me about the game,” said Luthuli.

“On Saturday morning she got a reply from my number saying that I had been arrested in Ladysmith in the early hours of Saturday morning and that I needed R5 000 bail money to be deposited into a bank account.”

With Luthuli not even in possession of his cellphone and unable to have sent such a message, somebody had performed a SIM card swap and taken control of all Luthuli’s messages and contacts.

“They [the con artist] asked my wife to transfer R100 air time to my phone, which she did,” he said.

“After they asked for more money my wife got concerned and phoned security at my flat in Maritzburg. They told her that I was fine and then I was informed of what was happening.”

Now fully aware that his phone was the victim of a SIM swap, Luthuli returned to Vodacom at the mall to inform them that software problems were not the issue.

Vodacom performed another SIM swap at 2 pm to return Luthuli’s contacts to him, but not long afterwards somebody had cancelled the re-swap again.

“It is very concerning that somebody has the power to pretend to be you and get a hold of your personal details,” said Luthuli.

Captain Thulani Zwane of the South Africa Police Services confirmed that a case of fraud was being investigated, but that at this stage no arrests had been made.

Luthuli’s experience came two weeks after the Sunday World reported that Orlando Pirates captain Lucky Lekgwathi had his SIM card “cloned” and that the scamster had “made calls to his acquaintances pretending to be the footie star”.

An acquaintance of Lekgwathi’s had reportedly deposited R1 500 into the scamster’s account, under the impression that Lekgwathi had requested the money to pay a speeding fine. Even after Lekgwathi had changed his cellphone number, under the impression that his old number was no longer active, acquaintances of his continued to be sent messages asking for cash transfers.

At the same time at Kaizer Chiefs, defender Tefu Mashamaite confirmed that a similar scam had happened to him and that acquaintances of his had been conned for over a month, with one lady allegedly depositing R3 000 into an unknown account thinking that she was helping the footballer.

VODACOM has noted that SIM swap fraud attempts are on the increase. Fraudsters who engage in SIM swap fraud are posing as cellphone company representatives to try and trick unsuspecting customers who end up being victims of Internet banking fraud.

SIM swap fraud is a technique used by fraudsters to defraud unsuspecting Internet banking users. Once they have acquired the victim’s banking details and other personal information through phishing scams, the fraudsters then call the network operator posing as the customer and request a SIM swap.

This will cancel the customer’s SIM connection and the fraudsters will have access to the customer’s cellphone line.

This will enable the fraudsters to receive the customer’s one time Internet banking password, allowing them to perform fraudulent Internet banking transactions.

Vodacom notifies customers via SMS whenever a SIM swap attempt is made, which Luthuli never recieved due to the technical difficulties he was experiencing.

Customers who receive the SMS, but have not requested a SIM swap should alert Vodacom about the fraudulent SIM swap request by calling Vodacom’s customer care on 082 111.

Fraudsters have resorted to calling customers to try to either convince them to switch off their phones for an extended period of time or try and convince them to ignore the SMS from the network operator.

“We’ll never call our customers and ask them to switch off their cellphones unless they have requested assistance with a handset related issue that requires their cellphones to be switched off.

“So if they’ve not logged a fault with us, they should be suspicious of any requests to switch off their cellphone,” said Johan Van Graan, chief risk officer at Vodacom.

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