Johannesburg - MTN has warned its customers to be vigilant over the festive season and take the necessary precautions to avoid falling prey to fraudsters.
The network provider said that with Christmas shopping in full swing, consumers need to be even more alert to cyber-related fraud.
“During the festive season we see a proliferation of scams where fraudsters conceive elaborate methods to dupe unsuspecting customers. One of the most common techniques used is to solicit personal details from people, which are then used to conduct fraudulent SIM swaps, or as part of an intricate plan to access online bank accounts,” says Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive for Corporate Affairs at MTN SA.
A recent PwC report indicates that 32% of South Africans have been a victim of cyber related crime in the past year, in line with the global average. The study also highlights that cybercrime is now the fourth most reported crime in South Africa.
The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) indicates that cybercrime has increased by almost 30% since 2013 and the country loses more than R1 billion each year to cybercrime.
Figures from the Ombudsman for Banking Services indicates that in 2016 they received 138 complaints related to SIM swap fraud. By contrast, the first half of 2017 had already seen 160 complaints. The increase is significant in that it highlights that SIM swap fraud is on the increase.
Fraudsters make use of a number of regular scams that include fake call centre agents, phishing scams, adding SIM cards to accounts, Wi-Fi hotspot hacking and abuse of social media platforms.
Fake call centre agents
One such scam involves fake call centre agents soliciting information from customers under the pretence that the agent is trying to block an illegal SIM swap.
The fraudster will ask for personal security information, supposedly to block the SIM swap, only to then use the information to perform a fraudulent SIM swap which can be used to access personal banking details.
“MTN will never contact customers from its call centre to block the processing of a SIM swap request. Customers should not to respond to unsolicited calls and requests for their security details,” says O’Sullivan.
Phishing refers to the electronic means by which scammers obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details with a view to fleecing unsuspecting customers.
“One of the most common phishing modus operandi is for scammers to request customers to update their personal details on a bogus site that resembles an authentic website. Customers will unwittingly click on this link and then populate their details which will in turn be used by the fraudsters to access their account and swindle them,” O’Sullivan explains.
In a bid to protect its customers from identity fraud, MTN introduced a biometric fingerprint scanning system, the first mobile operator to do so in South Africa, which will be used to authenticate the identity of contract customers when they transact with MTN at its retail stores.
The system will match customer’s fingerprints with their identity numbers by consulting the credit bureau’s consumer database.
Unauthorised addition of a secondary SIM card
Another popular method for fraudsters is where they add another SIM card to the customer’s primary line without their knowledge or consent. “The targeted customer would be shocked to get a hefty bill on a number that is registered to their line.
We urge customers to regularly check their account status and to always protect their personal information,” says O’Sullivan.
Consumers should also be wary of free Wi-Fi hotspots due to their porous security. “Some Wi-Fi hotspots offer poor security and some have been set up to gather customer’s data on their IP address.
"Many consumers are not aware that when they accept the terms and conditions of logging onto a Wi-Fi hotspot they are also giving permission to the IP to monitor their usage and access their data,” says O’Sullivan.
Social media provides yet another avenue for fraudsters to gain vital information. Through social media timelines, fraudsters can easily create a detailed profile of their target based on the information that has been unwittingly shared, such as birthday dates, children’s birthday, anniversary dates, favourite things, friends and where they stay.
“Based on one’s profile, a computer program can, within minutes, configure possible password combinations that one may use to conduct fraudulent transactions so it is best to use a variety of passwords and to change them regularly,” she said.
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