MTN cracks down on WASP fraud

An MTN customer recently complained that they received an SMS from MTN which fraudulently subscribed them to a wireless applications service provider (WASP).

The MyBroadband reader said they received an SMS from MTN with the following text:

“Your reward of 2 FREE Treasure Chests will expire TODAY! Visit and stand to WIN a share of *****”

The customer clicked on the link, which opened a web page, and then closed the web page immediately without interacting with anything.

Shortly afterwards, the customer was sent an SMS stating the following:

“Y’ello. Thank you for subscribing to Sa lingo at R2.02/day or a lesser amount. 1st 1 day free. To cancel dial *155#. Call 135 for help. Ts&Cs”

They had been subscribed to a WASP.

Using the USSD command provided in the SMS, the customer said they successfully unsubscribed from the service.

Reduction in fraud

The MyBroadband reader who lodged this complaint wished to remain completely anonymous, which prevented MTN from diagnosing this issue and determining whether it was a case of WASP subscription fraud.

To investigate these complaints, MTN requires the cellphone number of the affected customer to track the transactions and requests on their account. Without this information, they were unable to provide feedback on this specific case.

MTN SA executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan told MyBroadband that the network has seen good progress in its fight against WASP subscription fraud.

“As of this year we have seen a reduction in WASP subscription fraud on our network,” O’Sullivan said.

“We believe this is due to the implementation of several security measures and operating policies that have reduced the amount of WASP subscription fraud we experience on the network.”

“We have seen minor breaches which MTN has dealt with immediately on a case by case basis,” she added. “MTN is committed to constantly improve our security measures to learn through AI technologies in order to best protect customers.”


O’Sullivan added that MTN has conducted in-depth checks and ensured that all its technology partners and other stakeholders comply with the Consumer Protection Act.

“As a result, MTN has put in place measures through TCF to remove these fraudulent subscriptions activities,” she said. “Also, MTN has implemented the necessary fraud detection measures to protect customers.”

MTN listed a number of measures it has implemented to combat WASP subscription fraud on its network. including:

  • Implementation of the ICASA Premium rates services spend limit where customers may set limits on their airtime account to be spent on Premium rated services and content services.
  • Implementation of the ICASA Premium rates services blocking functionality that block all charges requested by premium rated services and content services.
  • Implementation of “Double opt-in” across all services to increase subscription security and ensure that customers take greater control of their subscriptions.
  • Clear and simplified user journey and short codes to unsubscribe from any content services.
  • Implementation of fraud protection on all banners promoting rich media services through programmatic media buying.
  • Blocking and optimizing affiliate partner traffic directed to MTN content and rich media service banner ads.
  • Implementation of network-initiated USSD on all WASP services to do away with the constant WAP opt-in.

MTN has also implemented the second phase of its Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) policy. The first phase was implemented in May 2018 and was designed to mitigate 60% of fraudulent subscriptions on the network.

“The second phase (Artificial Intelligence Fraud detection software) was implemented at the end of September 2018,” O’Sullivan said. “This is designed to mitigate up to 95% of the fraudulent subscriptions.”

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MTN cracks down on WASP fraud