SIM-swap scams: How Vodacom protects you

Cape Town - SIM-swap fraud complaints seem to be on the rise with a growing number of victims coming forward to share their dreadful experiences.

Cellphone banking has also been blamed as one of the top contributors to an increase in internet banking complaints for 2016, revealed the Banking Services Ombudsman. “This suggests increased cellphone banking activity, but also a need for greater security,” the report said.

READ: SIM-swap victims mull legal action against banks

However, behind the figures and statistics are deeply disgruntled consumers, some of whom are hoping to bring a combined application against banks and mobile network providers.  

With most of these clients being on the Vodacom network, according to the attorney handling the potential case, Fin24 turned to the operator for some answers in a bid to help concerned consumers.

1. What trends are you seeing relating to SIM-swap fraud?
We are not seeing any notable trends in this regard. What we can confirm is that the vast majority of SIM-swaps processed on our network are legitimate with an estimated 0.004% potentially involved in fraudulent banking activities.

Furthermore, we have seen instances of SIM-swap fraud decline as a result of a number of proactive measures taken by Vodacom’s expert security and risk teams in order to combat SIM-swap fraud.
2. Can you take us through some of those measures?
Over the years Vodacom has taken a number of additional proactive measures to combat SIM-swap fraud. A prime example of what Vodacom has already put in place to mitigate SIM-swap fraud and Internet Banking Fraud is to allow banks to check when last the customer requested a SIM swap on a specific mobile number before they send an OTP [One Time Password] to that number. 

This is done through an automatic electronic interface and is a measure already implemented by some banks, allowing them, for example, to prevent flagged customers from adding a beneficiary during a certain window period while still allowing customers to conduct other banking affairs. 

Further measures include an enhancement in the customer authentication processes, restricting sim swaps done by business partners (dealers and franchises) as well as introducing a two-hour delay, allowing the customer time to validate the sim swap. We have also increased the number of warning SMS’s sent to customers notifying them of the potential sim swap.


3. Do you record and store information when SIM swaps are requested?

All successful sim swaps are recorded and stored in a database. This can be made available to the banks in the event they require it and believe this is an important tool in helping combat Internet banking fraud.

4. What advice do you have for customers to safeguard them against becoming a victim of an illegitimate sim swap?

In practice criminals first obtain an internet banking customer’s pin and password through the likes of phishing e-mails. They then use the personal information they obtained from the customer, via social engineering and other means, to impersonate the customer and to attempt a sim swap.

It is important to note that Internet banking fraud cannot succeed unless the victim has compromised their banking account details and personal information, including their banking PIN/log-in details. The best way to prevent a banking fraud scam is to be alert to phishing sites that often request this type of information
To protect customers from internet banking fraud, Vodacom notifies customers via SMS whenever a SIM swap attempt is made. 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 111.
We also encourage customers to:

  •  Be conscious of your cellphone’s connectivity status. If you unexpectedly cannot make or receive calls or messages (SMS), do not automatically assume that there is a problem with the network or handset. Contact Vodacom immediately and enquire whether a sim swap has been processed on your number.
  • Never ignore an SMS message alerting you to a pending SIM swap request on your account.
  • Contact us if you ever receive a call or SMS from a source purporting to be your service provider and requesting you to ignore sim swap SMS notifications. We urge the customer to contact us urgently to report this.
  • Give instructions to your service provider to deactivate your SIM card where an unauthorised or fraudulent sim swap has taken place on your cellular number.

5. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Vodacom will never ask you to disclose confidential information over email or on any social network. Should you suspect that an electronic communication sent to you is false, do not respond or engage in any form of communication with the sender. Where in doubt, contact Vodacom’s Customer Care on 082 111 to verify the legitimacy of any communications received from the company.
Phishing attempts/sites often ask for both personal and banking account information. Consumers should always be careful to safeguard this information and under no circumstances should they divulge personal information such as identity numbers, usernames, PINs or passwords to anyone.
Also, the public should be savvy and adopt a position of sensible caution and common sense:

  • Ignore unsolicited messages especially where these appear to be suspicious or out of the norm 
  • Check the veracity of claims, advertisements or any communications received
  • Think before you click, whether responding to an SMS, voice message or an email  
  • Make sure that you’ve confirmed that a link is safe or that you verify the authenticity of the sender before responding
  • Should you suspect you have responded to a phishing attempt or scam, change your username and password and notify your service provider or financial institution?

In all cases of fraud, we encourage customers to open a case with the police for investigation. As a company, we support the SAPS with all investigations to apprehend the syndicates for legal prosecution.

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