MyBroadband recently reported that billions of rand in airtime has been stolen from mobile subscribers in South Africa, which remains a significant problem in the country.
The Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) has now revealed that organised crime syndicates are behind this airtime theft.
WASPA explained that while the local WASP industry is regulated and responsible, South African mobile users are most at risk from overseas-based mobile fraudsters.
“Fraudulent mobile-based billing is a global problem caused by third parties facilitating fraudulent transactions for the benefit of assumed organised crime syndicates,” WASPA said.
WASPA hitting back
WASPA told MyBroadband that it is not powerless and is hitting back at those that would wreck the local WASP sector.
“In a stalling local economy, WASPs remain important contributors to the overall SA mobile industry in terms of revenue, employment, and creativity,” WASPA said.
WASPA has formed a Fraud Prevention Task Team consisting of representatives from telecoms, finance, legal, technical, and other backgrounds.
This Fraud Prevention Task Team, WASPA said, is reviewing the current situation and working towards sustainable solutions.
WASPA Code of Conduct
WASPA said clause 4.11 of its Code of Conduct is aimed at fraud prevention and requires that members must take reasonable steps to prevent fraud through them.
WASPA’s Best Practice Guidelines, in turn, sets out potential types of fraudulent activity and ways to mitigate or eradicate such activity.
“Already, these guidelines have seen a dramatic drop in clickjacking aimed at local mobile users,” WASPA said.
WASPA said its block list, which contains information about fraudulent applications, is shared with all members and mobile operators.
Cell C responds
Cell C said all its WASP partners are based locally, with offices in South Africa subject to South African law.
“They all have anti-fraud systems installed as a prerequisite for the Cell C partnership and these are monitored,” Cell C said.
Cell C added that it is easy to stop WASP billing and preventing it by blocking WASP billing by default.
This can be done by dialling *133*1# as a Cell C subscriber.
Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive of corporate affairs at MTN SA, told MyBroadband that mobile fraud is in most cases carried out by malware residing on the user’s device.
This malware is installed by the user unwittingly, under the guise of a benign application, providing some useful utility or function to the user.
“The malware then delivers invisible ads to the device, generates fake clicks and carries out purchases of premium digital services, while reporting real views, clicks and purchases to the ad networks,” said O’Sullivan.
“To safe-guard our customers for fraudulent sites and apps that they might use, MTN South Africa has implemented Secure-D’s fraud detection solution,” she said.
Secure-D’s fraud detection solution detects fraudulent clicks from malware or other sources and blocks them proactively in real-time.
This, O’Sullivan said, means their users are protected against subscriptions to services without their express consent.
MTN customers can also view and cancel services by dialling *155#
No comment from Vodacom
Vodacom was asked for comment, but the company did not respond by the time of publication.