A Vodacom client was shocked with three new debit orders on her bank account, and an outstanding balance of R45,000 on her cellphone bill, after fraudsters opened several new lines in her name.
The client said it then took three days for Vodacom’s fraud department to respond with a reference number to her report of the unauthorised activity.
She received no automated or human confirmation when she reported the fraud, but the issue was rectified within six working days of her first reporting it.
When the client first contacted Vodacom, she called the operator’s call centre to ask about the R45,000 bill.
It appeared the fraudsters had opened five new contracts on her account and applied for early termination on all of them, hence the high bill.
The call centre agent could reportedly not see how or when the contracts had been added.
However, a source told MyBroadband the contracts were not opened at a Vodacom store, but at a retailer which sells phones with contract packages.
The client was informed that she could not place her account on hold while she filed a police report and completed an affidavit to send to Vodacom.
Before going to the police, though, she contacted her bank to stop the debit orders from going off.
How it happened
The circumstances of the fraud raised many questions from the client, including how new contracts were added to her account without her knowledge.
Vodacom said that in cases like this, criminals impersonate a legitimate account holder or subscriber to derive financial benefit.
“There are a number of ways in which this fraud can be perpetrated,” said Vodacom.
It can be committed at a store with falsified documents, and through telephonic and online sales channels where the fraudster impersonates the account holder.
Criminals may also get hold of employee credentials unlawfully, through social engineering and phishing attacks, said Vodacom.
On how fraudsters circumvent the relevant credit checks, the company said that contracts without devices do not have strict credit requirements.
Vodacom did not answer questions on why subscribers are not alerted when new contracts are added to their accounts.
Prevalence of fraud
While incidents of identity theft and fraud are on the rise globally, Vodacom said the vast majority of the contracts it processes are legitimate.
“An estimated 0.005% of our post-paid subscriber base is typically impacted on an annual basis,” said Vodacom.
Based on Vodacom having 5.32 million post-paid subscribers as of 31 December 2017, this means 266 subscribers would have been affected by fraud.
“Vodacom is committed to combating any unlawful practices and proactively enhances its systems, processes, and procedures to prevent and mitigate incidents of identity theft and fraud,” it said.
“The Vodacom website is permanently populated with security warnings on various topics and provides guidelines associated with identity theft and fraud. We also embark on fraud prevention campaigns – both in the normal course of business and when specific issues arise.”