As the festive season approaches, fraud incidences will increase as scammers continue to find new ways to circumvent security barriers and scam unsuspecting consumers of their hard-earned money, warns mobile operator MTN.
While technology has negated tasks like queuing at a bank or licensing department, it has also exposed many of us to new forms of online security threats. “The rule of thumb is to exercise the same level of precautions we take in our lives in the virtual and online world,” said Elgiva Sibisi, GM for revenue assurance and fraud management at MTN South Africa.
SIM Swap and porting fraud
MTN noted that identity fraud has become a consistent threat to all network operators and customers around the world, as criminals constantly work to find new ways to beat fraud prevention systems.
“ID theft is often the start of the fraud, with a criminal getting hold of sufficient personal information to pose as a credible network agent. 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.
A recent example of this was in 2018 when MTN proactively warned all its customers to beware of a new scam that developed. In this scam, criminals claiming to be MTN call centre agents. They would request the customer’s security details under the pretence 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, that they obtained during the call, to perform a fraudulent SIM swap.
MTN made it clear that it will not contact customers from its call centre to block the processing of a SIM swap request. “We also urged all our customers not to respond to unsolicited calls and requests for their security details from an unknown number,” said Elgiva.
The operator said it has, for the past year, rolled out in-store biometrics as an additional layer of security to further halt such criminal activity. It also introduced secure (One Time Passwords) OTP 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.
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,” MTN said.
“MTN has introduced a solution called Subscriber Identity for Third Parties (SIFT), which gives banks real-time alerts on change in SIM card number. This feature is zero-rated and gives customers a 48-hour window period to stop any unauthorised transactions. MTN is also encouraging customers to provide a secondary number or an email address to verify SIM swap requests,” said Elgiva.
Many of us are familiar with online quizzes in which we get to answer simple questions and the app paints a psychological profile of the participant based on their responses. While this might look like harmless fun, the reality is that some of these quiz apps use the information provided by users to build their psychological profile which is then shared with third parties, MTN warned.
When you participate in social media quizzes, users are prompted to give the app permission to access their accounts and data from their social media friends. Any time you sign in to a website or app via your Facebook profile you’re asked similar questions. If you approve the app can scrape certain data from your account, the operator said.
MTN cautioned customers to be wary of divulging personal data on online platforms that can be used to defraud them.
MTN said it has seen a large number of customers who were fraudulently subscribed, by the means of click-jacking. This type of fraud, it said, is prevalent on smartphones, where a user may mistakenly click on a banner that is linked to a bot which mimics the behaviour of the customer and approves the opt-in and double opt in requests without the customer knowing.
“Click-jacking fraud is a major issue and we understand this to be a global issue that occurs outside of MTN’s network. We are currently introducing measures to monitor, protect and put an end to these unscrupulous fraudulent subscriptions,” said Elgiva.