Numerous South Africans have been hit by Telkom contract fraud and unauthorised debit orders that have been taken out on their names.
MyBroadband received a flood of complaints from people who have been hit by this type of crime after a report on fraudulent Telkom SmartBroadband Wireless LTE contracts.
Victims reported that Telkom contracts had been taken out on their names without their permission and that debit orders had subsequently gone off on their bank accounts.
Below is a summary of the reported issues MyBroadband received between December 2020 and January 2021.
- Reader 1 – Two fraudulent debit orders in December for Telkom products.
- Reader 2 – Fraudulent Telkom mobile contract taken out using two-year-old proof of residence.
- Reader 3 – Fraudulent contract taken out in August 2020 (resolved in January 2021)
- Reader 4 – Two Netflix subscriptions added to Telkom account without permission (resolved in January 2021)
- Reader 5 – Two fraudulent Telkom contracts with debit orders of R269 each.
- Reader 6 – Four debit orders taken off account for fraudulent Telkom contracts.
Several victims indicated that thousands of rands have been deducted from their bank accounts for packages they never signed up for.
The total for reader 1’s fraudulent debit orders amounted to R4,586.98.
Reader 5, who had noticed two Telkom debit orders of R269 each going off his bank account at the end of November, was billed R10,820.40 one month later.
This was despite the fact that he had opened up a case of fraud and provided Telkom with all the necessary documentation for the debit order to be cancelled.
An agent told him it would take Telkom two months to investigate the matter.
The last complainant’s situation was particularly troublesome. In his case, the four debit orders that went off from December 2020 to January 2021 amounted to more than R27,000.
He told MyBroadband he had to reverse the transactions as he would not have been able to make ends meet in those months if he did not have this money.
Struggling with customer service
All the complainants said they had spoken to various agents and departments at Telkom’s contact centre on numerous occasions to get their issues resolved, but without much success.
In most cases Telkom was provided with the necessary sworn affidavits and other documents to have the products cancelled.
By the time of publication, only two of the complainants were refunded for the fraudulent debit orders – readers 2 and 4.
Reader 2 managed to get the debit orders running from August 2020 cancelled and received his refund by January 2021 – four months after reporting the issue.
Reader 4 told MyBroadband he was only able to get two Netflix subscriptions taken off his account after he got in touch with Telkom Group CEO Sipho Maseko.
Identity theft in South Africa
Mobile contract fraud as a result of identity theft is a common problem in South Africa.
To carry out this type of fraud, criminals need to collect enough personal information about an individual in order to impersonate them.
They then typically falsify an ID document with their own picture and sign up for a mobile contract using the other details and leave the store with a brand new device and SIM.
The victim gets the bill for the products, and by the time a dispute with the relevant mobile operator confirms that fraud has taken place, the criminal is long gone.
The operator then suffers the financial loss of having to refund the victim.
What to do if you are a victim
Mobile operators are obliged to protect the information of their customers from falling into the wrong hands.
MyBroadband contacted Telkom to ask whether it was aware of a rise in mobile contract fraud over the last few weeks and why it was taking so long to address the claims of fraud raised by these readers.
Telkom said that it takes fraud very seriously.
“Although our systems are on par with the industry as far as protection of customer information, threats evolve as criminals find different ways to defraud Telkom and its customers, we too continuously tighten processes to ensure the integrity of Telkom transactions,” Telkom stated.
“We require an affidavit confirming the individual did not apply for the service. Telkom investigates each case and subject to the outcome of the investigation, the necessary credits will be passed where it is found the account was opened fraudulently,” it added.
According to the operator, it had already addressed four of the six cases MyBroadband raised and said that customers had been kept updated on their respective cases, contrary to what the readers told MyBroadband.
Telkom advised customers that become aware of fraud to reach out to its contact points, either through the call centre numbers of 10210 or 081180 or by visiting one of its retail outlets.
“Integrity of our transactions is important to us and we are always working to get ahead of the fraudsters and constantly looking at new technologies to reduce fraud,” Telkom added.
ICASA has advised mobile customers who have struggled to get an operator to resolve instances of fraud to send it details of their cases.
These can be emailed to consumer.