South Africa has a “massive mobile fraud problem”

Paris-based anti-fraud firm Evina has determined that one out of every three mobile subscription attempts in South Africa is fraudulent.

The company said South African cellular users are very often subscribed to mobile services without their consent, the company says.

“After Kenya, South Africa is the African country most affected by fraud that fleeces millions daily from the mobile accounts of cellular users,” said David Lotfi, CEO of Evina.

“As Africa’s most advanced economy, it is particularly tragic that South African mobile users are falling victim to subscription frauds that are well managed in many other countries.”

Fraud is not treated seriously enough by the various mobile payment actors and this can be seen in the fact that 31% of mobile subscription requests in South Africa in July were fraudulent.

Lofti said this is deeply concerning, adding that the solution is not to block mobile value-added subscriptions by default but to manage the problem with better tools and expertise.

Evina has determined that South Africans are mostly at risk from a very basic fraudulent mobile activity – clickjacking.

“Clickjacking is a type of mobile-based fraud that is more than five years old and could be blocked very quickly if local market players took this threat seriously,” Lotfi says.

South African mobile users are also targets of a whole range of nefarious applications commonly available for download from the app store, including flashlight, wallpaper, pedometer, file manager, and video maker apps.

WASP fraud in South Africa

Over the past few weeks, MyBroadband has published reports from numerous industry players about widespread airtime theft in South Africa.

Most of this airtime theft happens when rogue WASPs fraudulently subscribe South Africans to content subscription services without their knowledge or consent.

Through these fraudulent subscriptions, they steal millions in airtime from mobile subscribers every day.

The exact scale of this fraud has never officially been reported, but conservative estimates by industry players suggest it runs into billions of rands.

What is of particular concern is that criminals are using gateways provided to them by the mobile operators to commit this crime.

Mobile operators like Vodacom, MTN, and Cell C make it possible for WASPs to directly bill mobile users through carrier billing. They are basically given the keys to subscribers’ accounts.

Mobile operators can block WASP billing by default, but despite a decade of fraud and billions in airtime stolen, they refuse to implement this solution.

The problem goes even deeper. In some of the cases where airtime was stolen, the mobile operators themselves acted as the WASP.

That means the airtime was stolen from Vodacom and MTN subscribers through fraudulent subscriptions to content services offered by Vodacom and MTN themselves.

Now read: How to steal billions and get away with it

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South Africa has a “massive mobile fraud problem”