Vehicle theft scam targets vehicle-tracking customers

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A syndicate of criminals posing as employees of vehicle-tracking and fleet-management companies Netstar and Tracker are targeting customers in a new car-theft scam.

According to the companies, the criminals phone their customers and claim their tracking devices need repairing. They then set up appointments, where they attempt to steal vehicles.

The syndicate is targeting high-value vehicles from all major tracking providers.

Sindisiwe van Zyl, a South African physician and radio DJ, shared with her Twitter followers the e-mail about the scam that she received from Tracker.

The e-mail reads: “Tracker has recently become aware of a car theft scam which is being used by a syndicate in SA.If you are contacted about repairs to your tracking device by someone claiming to be from Tracker, please ask them to take you through the Tracker security verification questions associated with your account in order to verify the legitimacy of the call.

“If they are unable to do so, advise them that you will need to contact someone at Tracker to verify their claim. If you are still unsure or find the call suspicious, please contact our call centre on 0860 60 50 40.”

Tracker also warns that a Tracker technician will never need to, nor should they ask to, test-drive a customer’s vehicle.

Some people responded to Van Zyl and shared their experiences.

In a Twitter status, @amu_mookie wrote: “My brother received the call and he told whoever called that his tracker is fine, it doesn’t need replacement. He then called Tracker to enquire why would they fit a tracker and later say they are sending people to replace it? He knew it was alarming.”

@PhandleVuyo responded by saying: “Same thing happened to me a while back; they wanted to confirm my number plate and convince me my tracker is not working. I asked the guy to send me an official e-mail detailing what is wrong with the tracker.”

In response to the scam, Netstar has released a media statement explaining it has launched a multi-pronged strategy to combat the threat. Alerts have been sent to customers, staff and fitment centres, and investigations are under way.

“We are conducting an inquiry to ensure customer information remains protected and to help apprehend suspects so that justice is served,” saysCharles Morgan, Netstar operations executive.

“We have alerted customers of the situation, warning them to be vigilant, as several attempts have been thwarted by alert customers.”

Discussing how the criminals were able to access customer information, Morgan points out that Netstar customer information is secured by strict access-control protocols and investigations indicate that customer data was not compromised by Netstar itself, and that the criminals acquired customer telephone and vehicle details via other means.

Netstar says it is sharing all relevant evidence with the South African Police Service. A joint working group has also been established with the industry stakeholders to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

“Protecting customer information is a fundamental part of our operations,” says Netstar MD Pierre Bruwer. “While our internal processes are secure, we are working to ensure customers are protected at all times and that all stakeholders are aligned on maintaining the information integrity of our industry.”

Responding to what the company is doing to combat the scam, a Tracker spokesperson told ITWeb: “This is a sophisticated syndicate and regrettably as this is an active investigation, we are not at liberty to discuss what we are doing to combat the syndicate at present. The scamsters are very convincing and Tracker would like to reiterate that customers should remain vigilant and contact their tracking company if they become suspicious during a call.”

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