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Friday, 27 May 2022 15:01

MTN cautions customers to take extra precautions against scams.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Telecommunications company MTN says the move to remote working and online learning has led to a spike in security incidents.

These range from cyberbullying, sexual exploitation and grooming, to fraud and more 'creative' forms of cyber-fraud, privacy invasion and theft, said the group's general manager for technology security Celia Mantshiyane.

Mantshiyane said that a lack of face-to-face contact with friends and partners led to heightened risk-taking such as sending sexualised images, while increased and unstructured time online exposed children to potentially harmful and violent content as well as greater risk of cyberbullying.

"Our children were suffering the most collateral damage of anyone during the crisis with Childline reporting a more than 36.8% increase in the calls received for help, compared to August 2019, and even now that restrictions are being lifted, they remain increasingly vulnerable," she said.

"Add to this are other invasions of privacy and attempts by criminals to steal identities and other online information, like banking numbers, and something needs to be done."

While increased vigilance is key, the reality is criminals are finding more creative ways to either take over identities, spam or infiltrate smart devices and home computer, Mantshiyane said. She added that the new hybrid working model, where many people alternate between home and office, or still work at home, is exacerbating the risks.

"Criminals have realised that some of the remote security at home is not good, and so they have embarked on concerted attacks into these weaker networks."

Scams and security 

One way in which users can protect their computer and smart devices is with strong, up-to-date security software, and password-protecting devices, said Mantshiyane.

Passwords should also be deliberately strong and/or complicated, as if the device falls into the wrong hands, email, financial accounts and other private data stored on the phone will be easily accessible, she said. She added that password managers and two-factor authentication (2FA) are seen as best practices for password management.

According to MTN, some of ways criminals are currently attacking identities include:

  • False information on credit reports, including identity number, address(es), name or employer's name.
  • Missing invoices, statements or other mail. If statements don't arrive or come late, consumers should contact their creditors. A missing statement may indicate that an ID thief has re-routed an account and changed a billing address to help hide the crime.
  • Receiving new credit cards that were not applied for.
  • Having a credit approval denied or being subjected to high-interest rates for no apparent reason.
  • Receiving calls or notices about past due bills for products or services that consumers are unaware of.

"Though some scams are easy to identify, other attempts in emails, via social media or websites can look very legitimate," Mantshiyane warned, emphasising that users should "think before they click" by looking for more than only one or two signs of legitimacy.

"Instead of using the link provided in a mail, you could for instance search for the website to make sure it is not fake. Cyber-criminals may also pose as a bank, credit card company or mobile operator employee over the phone, but no legitimate organisation will call and ask you for personal information – like a bank or credit card PIN number or a One-Time Pin," she said.

Stricter measures 

MTN said it continues to support its customers through the implementation of several key controls, including customer security questions by default.

Stricter measures are used to help detect SIM swap fraud. For instance, if an old SIM card is not working or not available, post-paid transactions can only be performed in-store.

Where the old SIM card is available, a SIM swap can be done through the USSD Channel but will also start in-store as a post-paid SIM needs to be purchased in person for identity verification.

Other tips to stay safe online

  • Monitor and review credit: Due to increased attacks targeting financial products, it is important to closely monitor profiles for new accounts, credit cards, loans or other transactions.
  • Protective registration: If an ID book or passport is misplaced or stolen, this should be registered with The details will be entered into their database to inform their members that the identity has been compromised and that they should take additional care when confirming said identity.
  • Using AI, customer validation and eligibility to help detect fraud early: Intelligent fraud management solutions entail fraud detection, investigation and prevention in real or near real-time. Machine-learning models are, for instance, being rolled out to trace behavioural patterns of requesters to detect potential fraud. Artificial intelligence systems use location, device and spatial patterns to red flag potential fraud.