Billions in airtime stolen from South Africans

rpm

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Vodacom's full response

Vodacom rejects, in the strongest possible terms, the inference that it seeks to share in the spoils of fraudulent activity on its network.

We have a zero tolerance approach to any type of illegal activity that happens on our network and we take a hard-line in the event that a third-party contravenes any agreement it may have with Vodacom or the likes of WASPA’s code of conduct.

We have suspended and terminated the services of WASPs and their affiliate content aggregators in the past and will continue to investigate reported transgressions and ensure that we take appropriate action.

We continuously enhance our systems and processes to eliminate fraudulent activity on our network and actively upgrade anti-fraud detection software to curb potential fraud.

On the decline in subscription-based content services revenue

There are a number of factors that contributed to the sharp decline in revenue from subscription-based content services in the past financial year.

These include heightened competition in this environment as well as the fact that consumer spend is under increased pressure, resulting in a decline in demand for value added services of this nature.

Another major contributor is that the additional layers of security that we introduced has had a significant impact on what is known as “the customer journey.”

In an era where customers increasingly want instant gratification, the delay in the process from first requesting a legitimate service means that the drop-off rate has widened significantly as a result.

Vodacom has a zero-tolerance approach to any type of illegal activity that happens on our network and has on numerous occasions communicated the proactive steps that it has taken to restrict click-jacking fraud, a global and industry-wide phenomenon.

These measures include taking a hard line in the event that a third-party contravenes any agreement they may have with Vodacom or the likes of WASPA’s code of conduct.

We have and will continue to suspend and terminate the services of WASPs and their affiliate content aggregators and will continue to investigate reported transgressions and then ensure that we take appropriate action.

We also seek to ensure that affected customers are fully refunded on first contact with Customer Care. In fact, we pass the large majority of credits to customers, if not for all queries, as standard practice is to refund the customer first and then investigate the query/allegation later. We also continuously enhance our systems and processes to eliminate fraudulent activity on our network.
 
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rpm

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MTN's full response

Do you agree WASP fraud across networks amount to billions of rands over the past 10 years? If not, what do you base your figures on?

We can’t comment on other networks, but as MTN we have always had a policy of crediting customers back for disputed spent. While we credit customers for disputed spend on Content type services, this amount is minimal on a monthly basis.

Mobile operators take a large part of the money from unlawful subscription content services. Do you think it is ethical to profit from unlawful activity on your network?

There is no unlawful subscription content services. All partners are committed to offer value to our customers. MTN has always had an open policy to refund customers with WASP partners, when any query or escalation has been raised.

It is easy to stop unlawful WASP billing and preventing this fraud by blocking WASP billing by default and giving subscribers the power to open their accounts to WASP billing if they want.

MTN has a double opt-in process where customers have to approve the subscriptions to any subscription services. In addition to this, MTN made this process utilising two different bearer types (WAP and NI USSD) to ensure that it mitigates any automated fraudulent activity due to malware on customer’s handsets. (Please refer to Question 7 for a detailed response)

Why don’t you block WASP billing by default and give users power over who can take money from their account?

Customers are in full control of what they are subscribing to since MTN requests double confirmation from customers when subscribing to any service. In addition to this, MTN had implemented a Token Based Billing system which requires an active and valid token for a WASP to bill the customer for a content service.

For over a decade mobile operators exposed their subscribers to content subscription fraud. Users have asked for a way to pro-actively block all WASPs, but you did not implement such a system. Why not?

Approximately 5 years ago MTN moved from Event Based Billing to Token Based Billing (as explained above) to assist customers with regards to double opting-in to services and giving customers tools to manage subscriptions themselves.

MTN also has a relationship with WASPA who actively monitors all WASPs services and customers have an opportunity to escalate to WASPA directly. WASP partners are required to send welcome messages with explanations of how customers can opt-out of a service, as well as reminder messages informing them (customers) that they are subscribed to a service.

Do you think it was a good decision to expose users to content subscription fraud without giving them the tools to pro-actively do something about it (rather than re-actively)?

MTN did not expose customers to fraudulent content services. Customers have always had the ability to manage their services via a USSD string(s). The ability to block any future subscription charges have been in place for some time and is now also available on *155#.

If you think of how many of your subscribers lost money and had to replace their SIMs to stop rogue WASPs from stealing their money, do you think something was wrong with the system?

We don’t have any statistics that suggest customers discontinued their old SIMs and buy new ones due to subscription services fraud. As smartphone penetration increases and more services are offered online, our security measures have to improve.

Over the years, particularly in 2018 MTN has improved its systems to mitigate the issue of fraudulent subscriptions and to ensure that customers are protected and informed, this is evident by the 70% reduction of calls coming into our call centre pertaining to subscription services during 2018. Some of the notable actions include the following:

• WASP fraud detection enforcement letter of content services banner protection.
• Implementation of fraud detection on MTN content subscription services banner ads.
• Blocking all website URLs marked by WASPA as fraudulent website URLs.
• Unified USSD strings to access products and services across telcos.
• Customers now are presented with a double opt in flow across all content services which then stores a token of the double confirmation to prove full end to end consent and not allowing fraudulent auto subscriptions.
• Customers now can set their own content spend limit so that they do not receive any bill shock amount.
• Customers are now notified of charges upfront before making use of the premium rated services through the IVR platform.
• Customers are now able to view and can block all premium rated service charges from ever being charged.
• Clear and concise standardized messaging without confusing cross-selling messaging and also clear opt out instructions for each product.
• All daily billing services send reminder notifications on a weekly basis.
 

rpm

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66,614
Do you agree WASP fraud across networks amount to billions of rands over the past 10 years? If not, what do you base your figures on?

We do agree that fraud does occur in the industry, but at Cell C this is minimal based on our processes (active monitoring and Double Opt-In) and acted upon immediately with corrective actions.

Mobile operators take a large part of the money from unlawful subscription content services. Do you think it is ethical to profit from unlawful activity on your network?

No, it is not ethical to profit from unlawful activities. Cell C operates its WASP Business on ethical grounds with processes and policies in place for WASP partners. We are in constant communication with our WASP Partners and their agreements with Cell C will be cancelled for any unethical business. It is easy to stop WASP billing and preventing this by blocking WASP billing by default and giving subscribers the power to open their accounts to WASP billing if they want. This can be done by dialling *133*1# as a Cell C subscriber.

Why don’t you block WASP billing by default and give users power over who can take money from their account?

Cell C has a double opt in (DOI) process. This process provides customers who want to subscribe to a service to opt in with WASP Partner first, then the second opt-in is initiated by Cell C thus giving customers the power to subscribe. Without the second opt-in the subscriber will not be activated onto the service.

For over a decade mobile operators exposed their subscribers to content subscription fraud. Users have asked for a way to pro-actively block all WASPs, but you did not implement such a system. Why not?

Cell C implemented DOI (double opt in) as explained.

Do you think it was a good decision to expose users to content subscription fraud without giving them the tools to pro-actively do something about it (rather than re-actively)?

Cell C exposed Customers to Subscription services based on the industry and customer requests for the service and not “Content Subscription Fraud”. Fraud occurs with any exposure. Banks introduces Internet Banking for their customers and not “Internet Banking Fraud”. Fraud occurred and Banks reacted to fix the problem. Likewise, Cell C reacted by implementing DOI to protect its Customers.

If you think of how many of your subscribers lost money and had to replace their SIMs to stop rogue WASPs from stealing their money, do you think something was wrong with the system?

There may be nothing wrong with the system of subscription services, but more in the way that it is managed. Management differs from operator to operator. Selection with proper guidelines and agreements for WASP partners are essential in providing subscription services beneficial to all parties.
 

RedViking

Nord of the South
Joined
Feb 23, 2012
Messages
40,444
MTN PLAY send me an MMS or SMS for their PLAY wasp rubbish. The moment I opened the SMS / MMS they subscribed me. Thieves and liars!!
 

Jola

Honorary Master
Joined
Sep 22, 2005
Messages
19,916
Yeah, now I can't keep more than R5 airtime on my account and have to make my phone calls with Cell C (Dual-sim phone).
 

Kosmik

Honorary Master
Joined
Sep 21, 2007
Messages
21,850
MTN's full response

Do you agree WASP fraud across networks amount to billions of rands over the past 10 years? If not, what do you base your figures on?

We can’t comment on other networks, but as MTN we have always had a policy of crediting customers back for disputed spent. While we credit customers for disputed spend on Content type services, this amount is minimal on a monthly basis.

Bullsh**! The response has been, "Oh you must have subscribed somewhere, we'll stop it but whatever you paid is paid."
 

neoprema

Executive Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Messages
5,707
How many blacklisted phones do MTN, Vodacom and friends allow on their networks? Do they even bother blacklisting IMEI's anymore? I've also heard they "expire" the blacklists after some time... Don't say you don't share in theft when you clearly do.
 

Zoomzoom

Executive Member
Joined
Aug 15, 2014
Messages
5,469
How many unsolicited sms do you get offering X, Y or Z with a 'send sms at X cost to say No'? And don't tell me the networks aren't profiting from these - they get paid for the sms both ways.
 

Antelope

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2016
Messages
403
Does anyone really believe cellc?

I had extensive communication with them a few years back, and only got my good few hundreds of rands back after a news website got involved.
 

LD50

Expert Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2019
Messages
1,986
My mother js on Cell C contract
Had 300min left, the next day gone. She had to buy more airtime
 

Little Mac

Honorary Master
Joined
Jul 18, 2008
Messages
53,579
article said:
"He said that subscribers are defenceless against these criminals as there is no way to proactively block WASP billing on their accounts.
How it works
WASPs are given tools by mobile operators to bill mobile cellular users’ accounts and take their airtime for content subscription services."

Hold on, you can't in the one breath say there is no way to proactively block WASP billing then in the next say WASPS are enabled by mobile operators. That's one heck of a contradiction. Double opt-in, problem solved, we've been saying this for donkey's years. Nobody in their right mind will agree to most WASP services, so I'd hazard a guess that even when people opt in, they don't realise what they're opting in for.
Mobile operators are to blame for caring less for their clients, end of.
 

RonSwanson

Executive Member
Joined
May 21, 2018
Messages
7,196
MTN's full response

Do you agree WASP fraud across networks amount to billions of rands over the past 10 years? If not, what do you base your figures on?

We can’t comment on other networks, but as MTN we have always had a policy of crediting customers back for disputed spent. While we credit customers for disputed spend on Content type services, this amount is minimal on a monthly basis.

Mobile operators take a large part of the money from unlawful subscription content services. Do you think it is ethical to profit from unlawful activity on your network?

There is no unlawful subscription content services. All partners are committed to offer value to our customers. MTN has always had an open policy to refund customers with WASP partners, when any query or escalation has been raised.

It is easy to stop unlawful WASP billing and preventing this fraud by blocking WASP billing by default and giving subscribers the power to open their accounts to WASP billing if they want.

MTN has a double opt-in process where customers have to approve the subscriptions to any subscription services. In addition to this, MTN made this process utilising two different bearer types (WAP and NI USSD) to ensure that it mitigates any automated fraudulent activity due to malware on customer’s handsets. (Please refer to Question 7 for a detailed response)

Why don’t you block WASP billing by default and give users power over who can take money from their account?

Customers are in full control of what they are subscribing to since MTN requests double confirmation from customers when subscribing to any service. In addition to this, MTN had implemented a Token Based Billing system which requires an active and valid token for a WASP to bill the customer for a content service.

For over a decade mobile operators exposed their subscribers to content subscription fraud. Users have asked for a way to pro-actively block all WASPs, but you did not implement such a system. Why not?

Approximately 5 years ago MTN moved from Event Based Billing to Token Based Billing (as explained above) to assist customers with regards to double opting-in to services and giving customers tools to manage subscriptions themselves.

MTN also has a relationship with WASPA who actively monitors all WASPs services and customers have an opportunity to escalate to WASPA directly. WASP partners are required to send welcome messages with explanations of how customers can opt-out of a service, as well as reminder messages informing them (customers) that they are subscribed to a service.

Do you think it was a good decision to expose users to content subscription fraud without giving them the tools to pro-actively do something about it (rather than re-actively)?

MTN did not expose customers to fraudulent content services. Customers have always had the ability to manage their services via a USSD string(s). The ability to block any future subscription charges have been in place for some time and is now also available on *155#.

If you think of how many of your subscribers lost money and had to replace their SIMs to stop rogue WASPs from stealing their money, do you think something was wrong with the system?

We don’t have any statistics that suggest customers discontinued their old SIMs and buy new ones due to subscription services fraud. As smartphone penetration increases and more services are offered online, our security measures have to improve.

Over the years, particularly in 2018 MTN has improved its systems to mitigate the issue of fraudulent subscriptions and to ensure that customers are protected and informed, this is evident by the 70% reduction of calls coming into our call centre pertaining to subscription services during 2018. Some of the notable actions include the following:

• WASP fraud detection enforcement letter of content services banner protection.
• Implementation of fraud detection on MTN content subscription services banner ads.
• Blocking all website URLs marked by WASPA as fraudulent website URLs.
• Unified USSD strings to access products and services across telcos.
• Customers now are presented with a double opt in flow across all content services which then stores a token of the double confirmation to prove full end to end consent and not allowing fraudulent auto subscriptions.
• Customers now can set their own content spend limit so that they do not receive any bill shock amount.
• Customers are now notified of charges upfront before making use of the premium rated services through the IVR platform.
• Customers are now able to view and can block all premium rated service charges from ever being charged.
• Clear and concise standardized messaging without confusing cross-selling messaging and also clear opt out instructions for each product.
• All daily billing services send reminder notifications on a weekly basis.
Talking trash
 
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