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SIM swap gang strikes again

Jun 14 2013 15:07
Carin Smith

Cape Town – A pensioner has become the latest in a string of victims  to lose his money when the notorious SIM swap gang gained access to his Absa bank account via a MTN SIM swap.

He joins the ranks of Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman, who had R360 000 transferred from her Absa account through a fraudulent SIM card swap a few months ago.

A 65-year old pensioner from Pretoria, who asked not to be named, said in May his cellphone just went blank. He thought that his battery had died, but once he had recharged it, it simply indicated “no service”.

The next day, when he wanted to connect to Absa's online service, it kept bombing out.

“I immediately went to Absa where I discovered that a total of R253 000 had been transferred from my account. It was established that it had been transferred to a Capitec account. I immediately reported the matter to the Lyttleton police,” he wrote in an email to Fin24.

“I only know that I am innocent. I worked hard for the money and it was a tremendous knock to my future retirement.”

He says a subsequent forensic investigation concluded that he had accessed an illegal website five times over a period of a couple of months and provided “information”.

“The website was identical to the one that Absa normally sends to customers to say that your bank statement is attached,” he said.

According to him Absa usually just asks for one’s ID number and in these fraudulent cases it was the same. This time he, however, could not access a bank statement.

“I never supplied a pin or a password, and I still have not been informed by Absa whether I might be able to get my money back,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, Capitec informed the pensioner that the two accounts to where the money was transferred, had been frozen.

Absa merely responded with "the investigation is still underway".

Charl Nel, spokesperson of Capitec, confirmed that Absa had informed Capitec’s fraud detection team about the pensioner’s case on May 13.

The Capitec account numbers provided were all stopped as well as all other accounts linked to the transaction. “Our forensics team managed to recover some of the funds and they will process the refund as soon as they receive the indemnities from Absa,” Nel said.

“We need to reiterate that although Capitec Bank’s actions were taken within minutes from being notified, the fraud had already taken place two hours prior, at another bank. We want to stress that time is of the essence in these situations.”

Capitec is now waiting to hear from Absa and the Saps to assist in the investigation.

MTN only said they are looking into the case.

Meanwhile, more SIM swap victims came forward.  Viona Clarke said in an email to Fin24 that she lost R10 000 from her Absa account due to a fraudulent MTN SIM swap.

She said Absa denied her claim and the bank’s decision was supported by the ombudsman for banking services.

“They claim that I was negligent and divulged my password and pin. I am prepared to join any class action,” she said.

Another Fin24 user, Johan Terblanche, said he has become just another statistic after R449 000 was illegally withdrawn from his Absa bank account on January 15 this year.

"To date they've recovered R253 000, but the rest could not be retrieved. Vodacom caught the culprit in their Midrand office.

"The Capitec accounts where the money was transfered to have been opened with fake IDs. It's been more than four months now. Absa simply said that I should contact the Ombudsman if I liked.

"For obvious reasons I am moving my account to another bank," Terblanche said.

Robert van Dijk lost R285 000 in February in an exact same scam. "To date, I have not been able to speak to anybody at the police regarding my case. My internet banking and cell phone has been off since then," he wrote.

Nicky Jacobs is yet another victim. She wrote that her phone showed no service on Friday, May 3. I phoned MTN thrice during the afternoon and was told to reboot my phone.

"Finally, someone saw that a SIM swap had been authorised on my phone. When I wanted to log on to my internet banking, I couldn't and when I phoned Absa I was told that R53 000 had been moved from my credit card together with money in my cheque account. The total that was transferred from my account to a Capitec account was R82 100."

Jacobs said: "I am really worried as I now owe the bank R60 000, which was the total limit on my credit card.

"No one can tell you when to expect an answer and in the meantime I am borrowing money to get through the month."

She said it feels like being victimised a second time... "it is very frustrating being kept in the dark like this".

Elizabeth Venter said her experience taught her that the client becomes the criminal.

"On the night of March 13, fraudsters did a SIM swap on my Vodacom phone," she wrote.

Venter only found out about it late on March 14, but during that time fraudsters hacked into her internet account and created four beneficiaries. "They stole R28 489.60 of my hard-earned money," she said.

Venter said she immediately opened a police case, contacted the fraud unit at Absa bank, as well as the fraud unit at Vodacom.

"Within a week the bank notified me that they will not pay my money back, because I apparently gave my pin and password to 'whomever'. The person who was supposed to investigate the SIM swop phoned me once and then disappeared in thin air.

"I know that the fraud was committed with the login of an employee within Vodacom's Business Centre and told them as much, but I never heard from them again. Absa's fraud unit re-opened the file after I lodged a complaint with my bank manager, but they again notified me that they will not pay anything back."

Fin24 SIM Swap victim list  of users that shared their experiences


Amount lost

Cell firm


KC van den Berg

R29 000



Madelein Herselman

Not disclosed



Rob Ermes

R180 000

Cell C


Gerhard van Vuuren

R26 655



Mary-Anne Hattingh

R90 000

Cell C


Former Absa employee

R346 900

Cell C


Esmaré Weideman

R360 000



Murray Baxter

R117 000



Gail Peddie

R67 500



Johannes Moate

R70 000 (Full amount recovered)

Not mentioned

Standard Bank

Eugene Malan

R97 000



Michelle Burger

R12 000

Debit card clone


Marco X

R50 000



Andro Nel

R19 150



Gerhard Prinsloo

R30 000



K Pillay

R44 000

Not mentioned


Eben van Heerden

R110 000

Not mentioned


Beaulinda Meyering

R15 000



Gerhard van Vuuren

R26 655



- Fin24

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vodacom  |  absa  |  capitec  |  mtn  |  banks  |  myfin24  |  fraud  |  sim swap



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