‘Smishing’ scam with SIM card

2012-07-20 00:00

FRAUD cases in which the victims see their money vanishing from their bank accounts after their cellphones and SIM-cards are blocked are on the increase.

Three people lost more than R1 million in the past week after their SIM cards were tampered with.

Rensu Nel of Kempton Park lost R800 000, Arno Geldenhuys of Durbanville in the Cape R275 000 and Lungelo Mathenjwa of Roodepoort R10 800, all in the same way, sister paper Beeld reports.

Susan Potgieter, head of the commercial crime office of the banking risk information centre, Sabric, explained that the switching of SIM cards is one offence in a chain of crime.

“Criminals need the victim’s OTP [one-time password] to complete an Internet transaction on the account. Without access to the victim’s Internet banking profile, the SIM card doesn’t help at all.”

She said the fraudsters would already have stolen the victim’s user name and password.

“They usually do this by phising on e-mail or ‘smishing’ on SMS.”

While the victims’ SIM cards are blocked, money is transferred from their bank accounts to other accounts.

Potgieter said three times as many people were defrauded through phishing scams in the second quarter of 2012, than in the first quarter.

“Luckily, instances of SIM card switching are quite rare at the moment, but the banking industry is still worried. We’re working with the police and mobile service suppliers to curb it.”

Geldenhuys lost R275 000 on Sunday night after his cellphone was blocked. The next day he received an e-mail from his bank advising him to call its fraud unit after the R275 000 was transferred to three different banks.

On the previous Friday, he had made an Internet transfer of R170 000 to a bank as part of a financial transaction for a new Audi A5. “I reported the case to the police in Durbanville and received a new SIM card.”

The mobile network said Geldenhuys’s SIM card had been blocked in Vereeniging.

“I waited seven years for a new car. I just hope the dealer doesn’t take it back,” he said.

Mathenjwa, a network engineer, called Vodacom on Friday, July 6, to find out when his contract expired. Three days later he received bank statements by e-mail and noticed that his cellphone was off the network.

“I thought it was a network problem. I only use the cellphone for banking.”

Mathenjwa said he wanted to do a banking transaction on Wednesday, but the cellphone was still off the network. He discovered on inquiry that the cellphone had been blocked. He swopped his SIM card and realised that R10 800 had vanished from his account while the cellphone was off.

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