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How fraudsters use Facebook and WhatsApp to steal money from South African mobile customers

Fraudsters are using social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, to target South African telecoms clients looking for support and steal money from them.
Fraudsters are using social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, to target South African telecoms clients looking for support and steal money from them.

Consumer activist Wendy Knowler told The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield many mobile subscribers are desperate to find support and turn to social media for a solution.

The fraudsters monitor the Facebook and Twitter pages of companies like Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom, and Rain to identify people looking for help.

Pretending to be support agents from the company, they approach the customers looking for help.

After showing sympathy and promising to resolve the problem, they convince the customer to move the conversation to WhatsApp.

“Once they have you on WhatsApp, they ask you for personal details to resolve the problem. This includes bank account details and related information,” said Knowler.

This is not as strange as it may appear. Many clients complain about unauthorised debit orders or double debits on their bank accounts, and requesting this information therefore makes sense.

The scammers, masquerading as support agents, explain they need the banking details to reverse the debit orders.

Customers typically provide this information as they are relieved to finally receive help from the company. This has dire consequences.

After the scammers have all the personal information they need, they use the person’s identity to apply for loans and buy things in their name.

The victims of the identity theft are now liable for these loans and often have an uphill battle to reverse these transactions.

This fraud can further result in the victim’s credit record being tainted.

To avoid falling victim to this fraud is not easy.

“It is incredibly difficult to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters who know our behaviour as consumers,” said Knowler. “They know how disgruntled consumers behave and how to exploit it.”

Wendy Knowler
Wendy Knowler

An example of this fraud recently took place when an MTN customer, called Lizelle, left a negative review on MTN’s Facebook page after she was double-debited.

A scammer, pretending to be an MTN support agent, then reached out to Lizelle through Facebook and told her she wanted to resolve her problem.

She asked for proof of ID from Lizelle, which she duly provided. This became the first tool in the scammer’s arsenal.

The conversation was then moved to WhatsApp which the scammer said was needed to provide further support.

The scammer asked Lizelle for her banking details to refund the money she lost because of the double debit.

She provided the scammer with her bank statements as requested, thinking it was safe as she was dealing with an MTN employee.

Instead of receiving her money back as promised, several loans were taken out in her name without her knowledge.

She was able to close most of these loans, but is still struggling with one company. She also has to deal with a severely impaired credit record.

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