Bank customers have been warned of a new SIM-swap scam, with a big cellphone network asking its subscribers to guard against “social engineering scams”. Picture: Steve Marcus / Reuters
Cape Town - Bank customers have been warned of a new SIM-swap scam, with a major cellphone network asking its subscribers to guard against “social engineering scams”.

The Weekend Argus is aware of two incidents in which thousands of rands were fleeced from a bank client and another in which a client nearly lost her pension.

The scale of the problem could be greater, as the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) said it was aware the latest scam had occurred across banks.

However, it was reluctant to disclose details and referred queries to the banks in question.

Sabric warned customers against phishing scams, which involve fraudulent emails appearing to come from legitimate sources.

Malcolm Talbot lost almost half of his savings in just a few minutes after a fraudster made himself a beneficiary on his Absa account and transferred the money without his knowledge.

Talbot wouldn't reveal how much money had been involved, but it is understood to be a six-figure amount.

Attempts to have Absa refund him the stolen funds were futile.

Talbot has taken the matter to the ombudsman for banking services. He said the scam happened in April.

Talbot doesn't know how he fell victim to the scam, as he said he had not given his details to anyone.












“I wanted to make a call on the 29th of April which was a Saturday and my phone was blocked," he said.

"I then called Vodacom, the network service provider with whom I have a contract, and they told me that I had requested a SIM swap, which I never did."

Having ensured that his number had been flagged with Vodacom, Talbot went to an Absa ATM, only to discover that his bank account had been blocked.

When he tried to withdraw money the next day, his savings account had been emptied and the money transferred to his cheque account, but some of it was missing.

Talbot phoned Absa’s fraud department to report the matter and asked that his account be blocked.

He had been told that Absa was unable to refund him, despite the fact that it had traced the bank account which had been fraudulently created to siphon the money.

“They managed to get back only R5 800 of the money, but they haven’t told me what action they will be taking against the fraudster," Talbot said.

"They have washed their hands of me."

A 60-year-old woman, who identified herself to the Weekend Argus only as Eudocia, said she almost fell victim to a similar scam after receiving her pension payout. She had worked as a teacher for 37 years.

Eudocia, a Vodacom and Absa client, said someone tried to do a SIM swap using her cell number.

“They called me claiming to be from the service provider and wanted to confirm some information, which did not include my banking details," she said.

"The next thing my phone went dead. I immediately called the service provider and they flagged the number."

No transaction had been completed on her bank account, but she alerted Absa to the possible fraud as she suspected a syndicate was behind the scam.

Absa told the Weekend Argus it was bound by client-banker confidentiality not to publicly discuss the circumstances of any of its affected customers.

The bank said that cyber-crime was an industry-wide issue that could be minimised only through vigilance by banks, cellphone providers and customers.

Vodacom said it was aware of the scam and that fraudsters used “social engineering scams” to obtain information from victims.

It said the majority of SIM swaps were legitimate, with an estimated 0.004% involved in fraudulent banking activities.

The bank advised customers to safeguard their personal details.