In 2017, Vodacom confirmed that an internal investigation had revealed a crime syndicate working with Vodacom agents to perform SIM-swap fraud.
The illegal SIM-swaps were being performed from within Vodacom’s call centre, according to the report on the matter.
The investigation reached the public domain after a victim of SIM-swap fraud was accidentally sent an internal document about the investigation.
The victim had lost R41,000 after criminals stole money from her bank account after conducting an illicit SIM-swap on her cellphone number.
Information about the scandal
According to the report, a Vodacom agent’s company login information was stolen and another agent used this information to perform the illegal SIM-swaps.
The offending agent was identified and admitted to performing the fraudulent actions of which they were accused.
The SIM-swap syndicate was allegedly being run from a Johannesburg prison by a criminal, stated the report.
In response to the revelations, Vodacom said it was committed to continually enhancing the security of its customers’ accounts.
“As a result of the investigation, we have already and will continue to proactively enhance security measures and processes to help protect our customers from fraud,” said Vodacom.
This followed the Hawks looking into enlisting the FBI’s help to investigate a “massive crime syndicate” that had infiltrated Vodacom in 2016.
The danger of SIM-swap fraud is that it allows criminal to access to a victim’s cellphone number.
This can be used in many ways – one of which is receiving one-time passwords from the victim’s online banking profile, which is typically compromised in conjunction with the SIM-swap.
The results can be devastating, and in 2018 a South African couple were the victims of an R884,000 theft by criminals.
Criminals can also clock up thousands of rands worth of data and airtime costs on the victim’s phone number.
An example of this took place in 2017, when an MTN customer was charged R12,714 thanks to 60 hours of international calls racked up by a criminal.
Vodacom’s latest update
To find out what the status of the investigation into the syndicate is, MyBroadband asked Vodacom if it had made progress in bringing the criminals involved to justice.
Vodacom confirmed that 7 suspects, including the alleged ringleader of the syndicate, have been arrested since the matter was uncovered in 2017.
However, Vodacom told MyBroadband that none of the arrested parties were employees of the company.
This is despite reports that Vodacom employees were used to execute the illegal SIM-swaps.
“This investigation is ongoing and pending finalisation in various criminal courts,” said a Vodacom spokesperson.
“Vodacom takes a zero tolerance approach to any type of illegal activity: SIM-swap investigations are conducted as a project case in conjunction with SAPS, SABRIC, the banks, and other service providers.”