Protect yourself against cellphone fraud

Fraudsters are getting sneakier by the day and the scams look very convincing. We help you spot cellphone fraud.

What is it?

Sonja Parsons of Business Management Assignments says cellphone or telephone fraud is theft carried out using devices like cellphones and tablets. The types of scams and the methods used to steal money differ, but the result is the same: You lose money because scammers get access to your personal information or you pay sky-high cellphone charges.

Don’t fall victim

Some traps may seem harmless, but don’t be fooled by how natural or even fun they seem – they always leave you with financial problems. Watch out for these:

• Missed call

One scam called Wangiri started in Japan. It works by ringing you once from an international number so you get a missed call. ‘As you do not recognise the number, you will naturally want to return the call,’ Sonja explains, adding, ‘Do not!   Rather Google the number before you do as   you may be charged up to R200 per minute while scammers milk your money. This money will be gone forever – nobody will refund it to you.’

Scamsters may also try calling your phone and hanging up before you can answer. When you then call back, you’re redirected to a premium rate service without your knowledge, which means you will be charged a lot of money per minute.

• You have won

This is when you receive an SMS saying you have won a large sum of money from a well-known company or brand. All you have to do is text or call the number in the message to claim your money. Don’t! ‘There’s no such thing as easy money. Do not think you will just take a chance and see what happens. You could lose everything you own.   Always remember that no company is going   to give you money to respond to an SMS.’

• Ringtone

This is when you’re offered free or cheap ringtones that you have to subscribe to. The scam is that the subscription for the service is very high and often difficult to opt out of.

• Competitions

You get messages encouraging you to enter a competition. You may also be invited to take part in a trivia competition that asks you easy questions to encourage you to keep playing. These ‘competitions’ can cost you up to R4 per SMS you send.

What to do

When it comes to protecting yourself, you can never be too careful.

  • Install True Caller to see the identity of the party calling you if they’re not on your contact list. Download the app from the Google Playstore.
  • Block numbers that you’ve identified as scams or spam.
  • Don’t respond to text or WhatsApp messages that say you have won money or other prizes.
  • Always remember your bank will never ask for your personal information via text or email messages.


Watch out!

In these hard economic times, your money may not cover all your needs, so getting extra cash can be tempting! Sonja has this advice:

1 Contact your bank

If the SMS or voicemail appears to be from your bank or other service provider, phone them and ask.

2 Use passwords and PIN codes

These should not be easy to guess, for instance, don’t use 12345, 0000, your birth date or house number. Your passwords should not be your name or your family’s. Never share your passwords with anyone and do not let anybody play with your phone unless you know them very well. It takes a minute to download software that allows remote access to your phone and all your personal information can be stolen.

What you can do if you’ve been scammed

Immediately check with your bank and put a hold on your cards until you resolve the issue. You can also call the bank’s fraud hotline.

Report scams

  • MTN: 083 135 or email
  • Telkom: 0800 124 000 or dial *120*11223344#
  • Cell C: 084 143 4273
  • Vodacom: 082 135
  • The Department of Trade and Industry established the National Consumer Commission to protect consumers from fraud and other misconduct. You can contact them at 012 428 7000, and
  • You can also report a scam to Scam Buster via their website,
  • IRS Forensic Investigations: 0861 911 477, 011 486 0731/0720


Read more: Clever tips for WhatsApp

Image: Gallo Images/Getty Images.