As we head into the festive season, criminal activities such as the illegal porting of mobile numbers and SIM-swap fraud become an increasingly significant concern. As Christmas approaches, consumers will be shopping for festive season bargains, often in the form of new cellphones and contract upgrades. It is in this festive period that consumers relax their guard and fall prey to one or other forms of mobile-based criminal activities.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (“ICASA” or the Authority), therefore, calls on members of the public to increase their vigilance and take all necessary precautions during this festive period. SIM-swap fraud and illegal mobile number porting are rapidly increasing crimes that occur when fraudsters use technology to gain access to consumer’s personal information. This can also happen when mobile resellers and agents mislead unsuspecting customers into signing offers for free airtime and data on a new SIM-card, bypassing the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (“RICA”) process. RICA requires that everyone who buys a SIM must register their personal details to prevent criminals from accessing and using consumers’ cellphones illegally.
SIM-swap fraud and illegal mobile number porting are not only an inconvenience for the victim, but all too often lead to financial harm.
Members of the public can minimise or prevent chances of becoming victims of SIM-swap fraud and illegal mobile number porting by taking note of the following precautions:
• Only buy a SIM-card from an accredited service provider;
• Make sure you RICA every new SIM card you purchase
• Ensure that your phone has a strong password, and preferably uses bio-authentication such as fingerprint scanning or facial recognition;
• Regularly check for signal loss on your cell phone, as this could indicate that you have been the victim of a SIM-swap or fraudulent number porting - if you lose signal unexpectedly, without cause and for any length of time, contact your service provider immediately.
• Do not respond to any request to share personal or confidential information, especially log in details or passwords;
• Avoid opening hyperlinks in unsolicited social media messages, SMSs or emails sent to your mobile devices.
Furthermore, ICASA urges all mobile service providers, as required by law, to protect their subscribers’ rights concerning the porting of numbers, as provided for in the Number Portability Regulations of 2018.
The Authority encourages consumers to report any irregular conduct that befalls them by lodging a formal complaint against any licensed network operator who fails to follow all the necessary steps and requirements to ensure the safety and protection of consumers in line with Number Portability Regulations of 2018.
The process for the handling of SIM-swap and other complaints starts with lodging a complaint directly with the service provider. If your complaint is not satisfactorily resolved, you may escalate the matter to ICASA for intervention by providing full details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that ICASA offices will be partially closed during the festive period from 16 December 2022 to 2 January 2023. ICASA offices will be fully operational again from Tuesday, 3 January 2023.