'SIM swap fraud on the rise'

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SA's largest mobile operator has warned that SIM swap fraud is on the increase, leaving cellphone users vulnerable to theft via Internet banking.

Vodacom says fraudsters are posing as cellphone company representatives, urging cellphone users to perform SIM swaps. “[The fraudsters] try to trick unsuspecting customers, who end up being victims of Internet banking fraud.”

SIM swap fraud is a technique used to defraud Internet banking users via their cellphones. Vodacom explains: “Once they have acquired the victim's banking details and other personal information through phishing scams, the fraudsters then call the network operator posing as the customer and request a SIM swap. This will cancel the customer's SIM connection and the fraudsters will have access to the customer's cellphone line. This will enable the fraudsters to receive the customer's one time Internet banking password - allowing them to perform fraudulent transactions.”

Vodacom says it 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 customer care on 082 111.”

The operator says fraudsters have even gone so far as to call customers and try to convince them to switch their phones off for an extended period of time, or to ignore the SMS from, in this case, Vodacom. However, the company says, it will never call customers and ask them to switch off their cellphones.

Johan van Graan, chief risk officer at Vodacom, says the operator will only do this if a customer has requested assistance with a handset-related issue that requires their cellphones to be switched off. “So if they've not logged a fault with us, they should be suspicious of any requests to switch off their cellphone.”

Van Graan says, if a customer receives an SMS notification indicating they have requested a SIM swap, they should ignore any further communication and immediately contact Vodacom. “We will take the necessary steps to protect them.”

Vodacom customers can contact customer care on 111 free from their Vodacom cellphones or 082 111 from any other phone for assistance.

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