MTN, Vodacom warn on billing scam

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Phone call. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Phone call. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town – Scammers are trying to steal cash from prepaid subscribers, claiming that people have used a massive amount of data on smartphones.

Some Fin24 users on prepaid mobile service have received phone calls from people claiming to represent Vodacom or MTN, and demanding payment for data bundles exceeding R2 500.

But it is likely a scam.

“We wish to put it on record that Vodacom will never call or SMS prepaid subscribers to demand ‘outstanding payments’ as prepaid customers use the service they’ve already paid for in advance,” Tshepo Ramodibe, Vodacom executive head of corporate affairs, told Fin24.

The scammers put pressure of mobile subscribers to provide banking details or make payments and send proof of payment to fax numbers.

READ: South Africans strain under spam callers

“Should a customer suspect irregular activity, they should alert our MTN Customer Operations via our contact centre straight away. We also reiterate to our customers that they should not give out their personal documents or details such as bank accounts and ID numbers,” said Ike Dube, general manager of Business Risk Management at MTN SA.

Ramodibe said that the holiday season is a growth period for criminals intent on exploiting people.

Theft opens a door

“It is a common occurrence that during this time of the year, syndicates devise multiple scams to siphon funds from unsuspecting customers. As part of our customer education drive on this issue, we always instruct our customers that the golden rule is that if something seems too good to be true, or seems suspicious, then people need to be on their guard.”

Theft of cellphones can also leave subscribers vulnerable to exploitation.

READ: Beware scammers using these tricks

“If a device is lost or stolen, the user must immediately report it to the police and contact MTN straight away, to allow us to deactivate the SIM - this will ensure that the SIM cannot be fraudulently used where you as a customer are left with a massive bill to settle months later, in light of the fact that the SIM was still being used,” said Dube.

Mobile operators do not monitor content of SMSes, making blocking malicious messages difficult, said Ramodibe.

“We can’t monitor the content of all SMSes that are carried on the network – the same way that the Post Office can’t check your mail to make sure it’s okay before they deliver it. What we can do is to block any numbers that spam or scams originate from.”

Apps to help

Scammers are likely to exploit people who are new to smartphones. You can take measures to help protect yourself from crooks by downloading specific apps.

Truecaller is able to identify mobile numbers of people calling you and block specific as well as unknown numbers. Mr Number also blocks unwanted calls and SMSes, while ACR is able to record phone calls on smartphones.

How are you prepared to deal with scammers this holiday season? Let us know.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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