PEOPLE should not be caught by this scam, like I have, even though I thought I was ‘scam proof’.
Fortunately I only lost R99, but it could have been much worse.
The scam is designed to rob you of the credit balance of airtime in your cellphone account, and works like this:
You get a call from a person who claims to be from a network provider, giving a Johannesburg business address, who is phoning to confirm your instructions for a sim card swap.
Obviously your reaction is that you never requested this. The caller then says that he can block the action, but will send you an SMS to confirm that you are at the correct cell instrument.
You then have to read to him the six-digit number that he has sent you. The SMS with the number arrives and, indeed, it says “the network provider advises you to confirm the number to stop the process of the sims”.
It looks plausible and the caller has not asked for any confidential information such as bank account numbers, credit card details, or whatever, so you give him the number, somewhat thankful that the cellphone company is so efficient to pick up the attempted card swap.
The caller then says, as a double check for security reasons, he is sending another similar SMS and the number should be read back again.
But this time it is a cleverly disguised one time pin number allowing the caller to transfer the credit balance from your phone account!
As soon as this number is read out to him, the line goes dead and any attempts to dial the caller’s number is responded to with a call rejected signal.
Very soon a third SMS arrives from the network provider, this time not a scam, informing you that you have transferred the balance of your airtime to a different account.
Calls to the clueless team at the the network provider’s helpline meant being continuously transferred from one department to another, explaining what happened over and over.
Eventually I understood that air time transfers are not reversible and I was also told that sim card swaps can only be done by going into an the network provider’s dealer if you have a cell contract.
It appears to me that this scam must originate from someone working at the network provider or who is familiar with their systems.
Hope this will help to avoid others being caught similarly.
ED: We asked a cellphone provider to comment on the scam two weeks ago, but have not received a response.
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