Cell fraud victims fobbed off

Cellphone-related fraud is rife, much of it made possible by insiders working in cahoots with cyber-crime syndicates.

The networks are never comfortable talking about syndicate partners within their ranks, of course, which is why their responses to media queries about such cases either gloss over this aspect completely, or spread the blame to the victims and, in some cases, to similar collusion on the part of bank employees.

Uncomfortable questions about exactly how the fraud happened, and why the victim had such trouble getting help, much less an explanation, are often simply ignored.

Last week forensic scientist Dr David Klatzow alleged that a client of his lost R200000 from her FNB account as a result of an MTN SIM swap scam, and that other MTN-FNB clients had also suffered losses, alleging “an inside job” in both companies.

My e-mail inbox suggests that such fraud isn’t restricted to one cellphone network or bank.

One of the most alarming cases I’ve taken up recently was that of Irene Rheeder, of Durbanville, Western Cape, who has a Vodacom contract and banks with Absa.

While she was on a flight from Cape Town to Seoul last September, someone at a Vodacom shop in Sunnyside, Pretoria activated a “twin call” facility on her account.

With this facility, when the primary number is switched off, the second “twinned” number receives calls until the primary Sim is activated again.

At the same time, Rheeder’s Absa account was hacked online, and R30000 was transferred from her credit card to her cheque account, plus R35000 from her savings account. Then R25 000 was transferred into a Capitec account but, thankfully, a second attempted transfer was stopped by Absa’s fraud department.

Absa refused to refund the money, saying the security SMSs sent to her phone were acknowledged. And when weeks went by without a response from Vodacom’s fraud department, Rheeder contacted In Your Corner for help.

She is adamant that she has never com promised her pin.

Responding, Vodacom’s chief corporate affairs officer Maya Makanjee said an investigation had revealed that the fraudster had presented no documents in order to activate the twin call facility on Rheeder’s account, and that he had since been arrested and detained pending criminal investigations along with “external persons”.

Vodacom told Rheeder the network did not accept liability “for the alleged loss” she sustained “as a result of the fraudulent activity linked to your bank account”. But as a “gesture of goodwill”, and in order to “resolve the matter on an amicable basis without resorting to litigation”, the network offered her R8750.

So, in short, as with so many other cases just like this, the bank claims the Pin and passwords were compromised, so they don’t take responsibility. And the network says, “okay, internal collusion led to your cellphone being ‘hijacked’ but the fraud couldn’t have taken place without your bank details being compromised, so we’re not liable.”

Which leaves the consumer stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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