“Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations. You have won R250 000 and a brand new laptop. You can either have us deposit the money into your bank account or we can mail you a cheque.”
This is the recording that a Verulam resident heard when he called to claim the grand prize for going through the Rica process over a year ago. But in reality, there was no prize for Rica-ing his cellphone sim card.
Last week, the retired education director, who did not want to be named, received an SMS congratulating him on having Rica’ed his phone, and promising the cash reward. All he had to do was call a “Mrs Thandie” on the number provided.
After listening to the congratulatory recording, the “real” Mrs Thandie came on the line and asked for the man’s banking details. “I refused, so she asked for my physical address instead so she could courier my prize to me. I chose the courier option.”
The man was then instructed to buy R150 of MTN airtime and SMS the voucher pin number to Mrs Thandie.
“I thought it was worth R150 to see what happened, so I followed the instructions,” he said. “I then received an SMS saying my prize had been sent to their insurance division.”
Still interested to see how far the scam would go, the man called Jeffrey David, the insurance broker. David said he needed to deposit R1 500 into an anonymous FNB savings account to pay for the courier service.
“They are still waiting for my money.”
But money and a laptop are not the only prizes on offer. According to a statement released recently by MTN, there are several scams going around, promising free airtime, holidays, and even a Mercedes Benz – all in exchange for your prized banking details.
Although these phone scams are common, police say most people don’t fall for them, and they’ve had no reports of people losing money.
“There are probably a few people who fall for the scams, but I think most people are generally aware,” said Hawks spokesman Colonel McIntosh Polela.
During the holiday season, however, people were more likely to be robbed of their money at an ATM than through phone scams.
According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), 13 incidents of robbery have been reported nationally this month.