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Be Aware: Most Common Mobile Scams

11 July 2021
In recent years, mobile operators – having centralised many services including purchasing data and airtime, accessing certain banking services and even transferring funds to another mobile number – have seen a sharp increase in scams.
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In recent years, mobile operators – having centralised many services including purchasing data and airtime, accessing certain banking services and even transferring funds to another mobile number – have seen a sharp increase in scams. While some are well-known, such as performing a SIM swap, others are a bit more sophisticated. We look at some of the most common mobile network scams out there and how you can better protect, not only your money, but your device.


Criminals claiming to be employed at a specific mobile network operator’s customer care centre will contact unsuspecting customers claiming someone is attempting to perform an unauthorised SIM swap or number porting. The criminal will confirm various security-related info including the customer’s personal info, their debit order details and even recent transactions. Once the customer has confirmed all these details, the scammer asks the customer to read back a one-time password (OTP) to authorise the SIM swap be blocked. With verified details in hand and the crucial OTP, the scammer is now able to complete the SIM swap without the consumer’s knowledge. The scammers are often aggressive and can be very persuasive.

IMPORTANT! Mobile network operators will not contact customers to block the processing of a SIM swap. It is up to the consumer to report these incidences to the operator.


Often called Phishing or Smishing (SMS Phishing), users receive an SMS or email claiming to be from your network provider. The user is asked to click on a specific link and fill out their details (either for a survey or to verify their personal details). The scammer then gains access to all your personal info and uses that to commit fraud. In some cases, the dodgy links also contain malware which is installed on your device the moment you click on it. The malware then gains access to your device and tracks your online activity without you even realising it.

IMPORTANT! Never click on links or fill in forms unless you know the sender can be trusted. If you have any doubts, rather ignore and delete the message and contact your network provider directly.


Be careful where you click – you could find yourself suddenly subscribed to a Wireless Application Service Provider (WASP) without your knowledge. Once subscribed, these WASPs deduct anything from R2 to over R100 per day from your account or available airtime. If you notice disappearing airtime, or you receive strange SMSes confirming you’ve subscribed to a service, it’s important to contact you mobile operator as soon as possible to cancel the subscription. Use the following numbers to block any WASP services on your account:

  • MTN: Dial *141*5# and select Content Services. Next, select Manage Content Services and then cancel any of the listed services by following the prompts. 
  • Telkom: Dial 081 180 and follow the prompts. Alternatively, you can block all WASPs via the official Telkom app (Google Play Store OR App Store).
  • Vodacom: SMS “STOP ALL” to 31050. You will receive an SMS confirming that you’ve been unsubscribed from any subscription services. Alternatively, you can call *135*997# and select option 1 to view the services linked to your account.
  • Cell C: Dial *133*1# and follow the prompts.


The next time you receive a missed call from an unknown international number, don’t call them back. Known as Wangiri fraud (Wangiri being the Japanese term for “one ring and drop”), the scam entails criminals phoning individuals from a premium international phone line and then hanging up. Thinking they’ve missed an important call, some users return the call, only to be charged R100 or more per minute for the call. The scammers often try and keep the caller on the line by either saying they’re trying to get a better signal or playing a recording of people fighting.

IMPORTANT! Unless you’re expecting an international call, it’s best to not return the call.

If you need to report any case of fraud or other criminal activity on your account or mobile number, you can contact your respective mobile operator as follows:


  • Call: 083 135 (from any non-MTN number)
  • Call: 135 (from an MTN number)


Cell C

  • Call: 084 135
  • Online: Alternatively, you can write to them detailing the incident.


  • Dedicated Crime Hotline: 0800 124 000 or *120*11223344#
  • Customer Care: 081 180
  • Online: You can also chat to an agent online via the Telkom Chat service.

Should your mobile operator fail to respond to your complaint within 14 days, you can report the matter to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

You can also report the matter to the Consumer Goods and Services Ombud (CGSO).

Sources: ICASA | WASPA | National Opt Out Database | Cell C | Telkom | MTN | Vodacom