Vanishing airtime? This is what you can do about it

Hundreds of South African cellular subscribers recently contacted Talk Radio 702 to complain about a phenomenon dubbed “data leakage”.

Users complained that data was being deducted from their mobile accounts – even though they had not used the Internet.

This is not the first time South Africans have complained about airtime mysteriously disappearing from their cellular accounts.

Content subscription services run by wireless application service providers (WASPs) are also a culprit, with some charging daily subscription fees that total over a hundred rand per month.

If you find that airtime or data is disappearing from your account, this is what you can do about it.

Mobile data “leakage”

Mobile data monitoring on Android and iOS
Mobile data monitoring on Android and iOS

South Africa’s mobile operators maintain that it is not possible for data to be deducted from your account without it being requested from your SIM.

In the vast majority of cases, data is being consumed by a mobile device without the user knowing about it.

If you are the only one who uses your SIM, and it is in a smartphone, you can monitor which applications are consuming the majority of your data.

Both Android and iOS have built-in features to track data consumption (as pictured above) which can be accessed through a device’s “settings” menu.

Should the SIM be in a router or Wi-Fi hotspot, you will need to check that only devices you recognise are connected to it. You can install software like NetLimiter, NetHogs, or GlassWire on your PC to monitor device usage.

If, after monitoring your usage, there is still a discrepancy between what you have measured and what you have been billed for, you can contact your operator.

Managing WASP subscriptions

WASP unsubscribe screenshots
WASP unsubscribe screenshots

Should you find your airtime disappearing or amounts being billed to your account that you can’t account for, you may have inadvertently subscribed to a WASP.

Since the end of 2013, South Africa’s mobile network providers require premium content subscription services to go through a double opt-in process.

It is therefore unlikely that a rogue WASP has subscribed you to its services without you opting in.

However, subsequent to the advent of double opt-in there have been WASPs who trick mobile subscribers into opting in to a subscription service.

To see whether you have been subscribed to a WASP, mobile operators allow users to manage content subscriptions through SMS or USSD codes.

  • Cell C: Dial *133*1#. From there you can block all existing and future content billing.
  • MTN: Dial *141*5# and select which services to unsubscribe from.
  • Telkom: Telkom’s Event-based Billing
  • Vodacom: Send SMS containing “STOP ALL” to 30333.

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Vanishing airtime? This is what you can do about it