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How to stop your airtime from disappearing

Wireless Access Service Providers (WASPs) provide various content services at a price, typically charged per day.

South African mobile customers can prevent airtime from disappearing or incurring high phone bills through various platforms provided by their networks.

Many South Africans can only afford to pay a small amount for prepaid airtime each month, which means every single cent is precious.

Most contract customers don’t have the luxury of unlimited spending on their accounts either.

Some usage behaviours that could drain your airtime quickly include:

  • High app activity and background data usage.
  • Sending many SMSs to premium-rated numbers.
  • High USSD usage.

If you are already keeping tabs on all of the above and your airtime is still being consumed at an alarming rate, then the culprit is potentially a WASP.

Wireless Access Service Providers (WASPs) provide various content services at a price, typically charged per day.

These charges are added to your phone bill or deducted from your prepaid airtime.

Normally, a user would have to opt into a WASP service to be signed up.

However, rogue WASPs found ways in the past to circumvent protections on networks and steal airtime from mobile users in South Africa on a massive scale.

Although there are no official figures on airtime theft in South Africa, industry estimates have suggested they have stolen billions over the last decade.

These WASPs use dodgy techniques such as clickjacking, and in certain cases, have even exploited systems provided by mobile networks themselves to subscribe users without their consent.

Many have called for mobile network operators to disable these services by default to protect their customers from the illegal behaviour of certain WASPs.

This has not happened, however.

Fortunately, all the major mobile networks allow customers to unsubscribe from premium content subscriptions. Some have the ability to block WASP billing completely.

This is offered via several self-service channels provided by the networks — including USSD, SMS lines, or apps.

If the unwanted billing is not fixed using any of the solutions we’ve noted below and your mobile operator cannot assist you further, you can report the issue to the Wireless Access Service Providers Association (WASPA).

If you believe you have been a victim of an illegal WASP subscription, WASPA may also be able to assist you in getting a refund.

Below are the steps for stopping WASP subscriptions on South Africa’s mobile networks.


Vodacom

SMS

  • Send an SMS containing “STOP ALL” to 31050:
  • If you are subscribed to WASP services, you should receive a response indicating that your request to unsubscribe has been received.
  • You should then receive messages confirming that you have been unsubscribed.

USSD

  • Dial *135#.
  • Select “Next”
  • Choose “Services”
  • Select “Content Services”.
  • Choose “Stop All”
  • Select “Block”

App

  • Open the Vodacom App.
  • Select “More” at the bottom right
  • Choose “Content Services”.
  • You will then see a list of your active subscriptions or “You’re not subscribed to any content services”.
  • Select the button at the bottom of the screen which says “Block content services”.

Vodafone Live Services

  • Dial *117#
  • Select “Next”
  • Choose “Unsubscribe”

MTN

USSD

  • Dial *141*5#
  • Select option 2 – Content Services
  • Select option 1 – Manage Content Services to view or cancel subscriptions
  • Select option 2 – Manage Premium Rated Services to set spend limits for PRS or opt-out of PRS marketing.

Block PRS charges

  • Dial *155#
  • Select option 99 – more
  • Select option 4 – Block/Unblock future charges
  • Select option 2 – Premium-rated services

Block PRS marketing

  • Dial *155#
  • Select option 3 – Stop third-party messages

Telkom

USSD

  • Dial 180 and follow the prompts.

App

  • Log into the Telkom app.
  • Navigate to “My Products”
  • Select “Manage”
  • Choose “Protect Your Mobile Number”
  • Set this option to “On”
  • Then go to “My Products”
  • Select “Subscriptions”
  • Choose “Content Services”
  • Select the appropriate option

Cell C

USSD

  • Dial *133*1# to block all existing and future content billing.

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