MTN South Africa said on Monday that it has implemented a wide range of measures to tackle fraud, including identity theft, illegal Sim swaps and number ports through which criminals try to get access to customers’ bank accounts.
Criminals, the mobile operator said, are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to defraud customers.
Identity theft is “often the start of the fraud, with a criminal getting hold of sufficient personal information to pose as a credible ‘network agent’”, it said in a statement.
“A recent example of this was in 2018 when MTN warned all its customers to beware of a new scam. In this scam, criminals claiming to be MTN call centre agents would request the customer’s security details under the pretense that they were blocking the processing of a Sim-swap request that was being made on the subscriber’s number without their knowledge or authorisation. The scammers were then using the customer’s responses, obtained during the call, to perform a fraudulent Sim swap,” Sibisi said.“Once the ‘agent’ has a customer on the line, they then solicit more details from the customer to then perpetrate the fraud. In other instances, personal data may have been stolen to be able to action the fraud directly,” said Elgiva Sibisi, GM for revenue assurance and fraud management at MTN South Africa, in a statement.
MTN said it will not contact customers from its call centre to block the processing of a Sim-swap request and urged customers not to respond to unsolicited calls and requests for their security details from an unknown number.
“MTN has, for the past year, rolled out in-store biometrics as an additional layer of security to further halt such criminal activity,” Sibisi said. “We have also introduced secure (one-time password) access to systems whereby users who are affected then have a clear tracking and audit log. Our monitoring systems give us a view of all related Sim-swap activities.”
Sibisi said MTN only processes Sim-swap requests between 7am and 8pm as an added fraud-prevention mechanism.
But criminals are pursuing other routes to defraud customers, she said. These include number porting, where thieves use a person’s information to switch their phone number to a new service provider. The thieves can then use the ported number to intercept messages, including one-time passwords used by banks.
“Both porting fraud and illegal Sim swaps start with criminals accessing customer’s personal information, through any number of ways. It is critical that all South Africans strictly protect their personal information and not share any details with unverified and unsolicited calls,” Sibisi said.
“MTN has introduced a solution called Subscriber Identity for Third Parties (Sift), which gives banks real-time alerts on changes in Sim card numbers. This feature is zero-rated and gives customers a 48-hour window period to stop any unauthorised transactions,” she added. “MTN also encourages customers to provide a secondary number or an e-mail address to verify Sim-swap requests.”
Other ways criminals are trying to defraud customers include:
- Data mining: Using seemingly innocuous apps, such as quizzes on Facebook, users can unwittingly sharing personal information with fraudsters, which they can use to build a profile of their victim.
- Click-jacking: Users are fraudulently subscribed to paid-for services. This type of fraud is prevalent on smartphones, where a user may mistakenly click on a banner that is linked to a bot that mimics the behaviour of the customer and approves the opt-in and double opt-in requests without the customer knowing, MTN said. “Click-jacking fraud is a major global issue… We are currently introducing measures to monitor, protect and put an end to these unscrupulous fraudulent subscriptions.”
MTN said it has implemented a “treating customers fairly” (TCF) policy, which is aimed at ensuring clients are protected against fraud.
“Furthermore, MTN has conducted in-depth checks and ensure that all its technology partners and other stakeholders adhere and comply with the Consumer Protection Act. As a result, MTN has put in place measures, through TCF, to remove these fraudulent subscription activities.”