Fraudsters hit Cell C in bandwidth voucher scam

Cell C has been hit by fraudsters, with the mobile giant admitting that it had to suspend affected the data accounts of hundreds of customers as a result.

The accounts have since been reinstated, the company says.

“Cell C has been investigating an internal fraud case, in which virtual vouchers have been stolen and sold. Cell C estimates that 44 000 vouchers have been stolen, however not all of these were activated,” company spokesperson Karin Fourie said in an email to the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday.

Cell C said some of the bundles had found their way to the market and the company had identified 453 customers who had purchased these vouchers.

“Cell C initially suspended the affected accounts to ascertain where the customers bought the bundles,” the company said. “However, as soon as [the customers] were in contact with the company these bundles were reactivated, since customers bought them legitimately.”

“No customers have lost any bandwidth and the fraud in question has been committed against Cell C and not its customers.”

Fraud at work
This bandwidth fraud was discovered when I approached Cell C after I found my data package was not working: It was telling me that I had no bandwidth when I had only used 1040 megabytes of my two gigabyte cap.

A Cell C representative at the franchise outlet I visited told me that I had not renewed my data contract when it expired on January 1, 2012. This was inaccurate: I had a receipt at home showing I had on January 30 2012 paid for two gigabytes every month for the next twelve months.

When I asked how, if I had not renewed my contract, I had managed to use a data package that expired in January up until the middle of April, he couldn’t answer me.

The Cell C staffer then printed a usage report, which showed that April 18 was the last day I used my data package.

The staffer said that I would have to return with my receipt and gave me the contact details of the owners of the Cell C franchise so I could deal directly with them.

As he was giving me the number he said: “Don’t worry, there are 44 000 other customers experiencing the same problem.”

Cell C spokesperson Karin Fourie confirmed that the company was investigating the matter and had registered a fraud case with the South African Police Service.

“Cell C has identified 453 data customers that have been affected,” said Fourie. “Due to the nature of the fraud, Cell C had to act quickly to prevent any further fraud by suspending the affected data bundles.”

“Those customers affected will have by now received a communication from Cell C and have had their bundles reinstated,” said Fourie. “The fraud was detected early and measures were taken to prevent any further fraud from the identified sources.”

  • The Mail & Guardian is interested to know if you are a Cell C data customer who has been affected. Please contact Lloyd Gedye on [email protected] or message him on twitter via @isolation
  • Correction: A previous version of this story carried the headline “Cyber-crooks siphoning off Cell C bandwidth”, and said that bandwidth had been skimmed off customers’ accounts by fraudsters. This was incorrect. As the story now reflects, the fraud was committed against Cell C, and not the customers themselves.

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Lloyd Gedye
Lloyd Gedye
Lloyd Gedye is a freelance journalist and one of the founders of The Con.
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