We may be in the height of the dry season in Cape Town but you probably wouldn’t have guessed by looking at the dam…
A Centurion man says that Vodacom and MTN couldn’t stop his phone number from being fraudulently ported.
Alasdair Cameron said that his ABSA credit card was “hijacked”and that the criminals needed his number to take full advantage of the compromised card.
According to Cameron, ABSA arranged for a new card to be delivered via UTI Couriers after the first one was compromised, and after two weeks, he received a text message on 30 March to say the card had been delivered.
“It hadn’t. I’d neither signed for it nor laid eyes on it (despite UTI reassuring ABSA that the card had been ‘dropped’),” he explained.
Taking all the steps
Cameron, who’s been a Vodacom customer for seven years, said he then received a Vodacom text message on 2 April, confirming a request to port his number.
Cameron said he had never asked for the number to be ported, adding that he had also been receiving unsolicited text messages to change his card’s PIN.
“I immediately phoned the number Vodacom supplied and was told the request was from MTN. I obviously asked for the port out to be cancelled. Then I physically went down the local MTN store and asked them to cancel it from their side (they did).”
Cameron said he then proceeded to a Vodacom store to request that they protect his account, with staff assuring him that a port-out “couldn’t happen” without his consent and “flagged” his account.
But to no avail…
“On Sunday (3 April), I received another SMS from Vodacom saying they’d received a new request to port out my number, again to MTN. I went through the same procedure, phoning Vodacom and going to the store. Again I was reassured. At about 8pm that evening, a ‘No Service’ signal came up on my phone.”
He then phoned Vodacom, who told him that the number wasn’t on their system anymore, while a call to MTN revealed that the number was indeed on their system and linked to an unknown prepaid number.
Cameron managed to get his number returned a day later.
“Someone, presumably the holder of the card that had been entrusted to UTI, had access to my cell number for 24 hours, during which time two attempts were made to withdraw cash from my credit card account.”
Cameron said he put a freeze on all internet banking as soon as his number was ported out.
“The fraudsters were not able to access any money it seems, but they did manage to log onto my internet banking, and attempted three cash withdrawals from an ATM on the day they had my number ported to their own SIM card.”
‘What about everyone else?’
Cameron said that Vodacom has since taken some action in a bid to prevent a future occurrence, but added that more needed to be done.
“From Vodacom’s side, I received a call from a senior technician who reassured me that my number could now only be ported out on the consent of ‘only three’ technicians in the country. That’s reassuring if true, but what about all the other folks out there with seemingly unprotected numbers?
“That’s the issue for me here: why is it so easy to hijack someone’s number? Either an inside job or a major system failure, which will only come to light, ironically, when serious money gets stolen,” he lamented.
A long-running SIM swap scam
The news comes amid several reports earlier this year of SIM swap scams targeting consumers. In fact, the earliest report dates back to October 2013.
“What astonishes me is that the cellphone companies and banks were ‘scrambling’ to get on top of this in 2013 already. It doesn’t seem they’ve made much progress,” he added.
Memeburn has contacted MTN and Vodacom but they had not responded at the time of publication.