One week before she was defrauded of R1.8 million, Monica Kruger, a businesswoman from George in the Western Cape, thwarted an illegal SIM swop.
What happened to her is detailed in her founding affidavit in a High Court application seeking to order Vodacom and her bank to provide her with the information she needs to establish who is to blame for her losses.
On June 11, Kruger received an SMS from Vodacom informing her that a SIM swop had been initiated on her account. Shortly thereafter she received a call from someone claiming to be from Vodacom, advising her that the SMS relating to the SIM swop had been sent in error, and that she should ignore it. This phone call was a ruse, meant to deter her from acting on the SMS and stopping the illegal SIM swop.
Realising this, Kruger then phoned Vodacom and gave the explicit instruction that no SIM swop should occur without her express permission and personal attendance at a Vodacom shop. The SIM swop was duly cancelled and Kruger was assured that her SIM had been “flagged”. (The flagging of a SIM means that a note is made on the customer’s account indicating that there has been an attempt to do a SIM swop by an unauthorised person. This should alert staff to be on their guard against future unauthorised attempts to swop SIMs on that account.)
A week later, Kruger again received an SMS from Vodacom informing her that a SIM swop had been initiated. But in view of her instruction to Vodacom a week prior and assurances from Vodacom that her SIM had been flagged, she never acted on it. “I … assumed it had been dealt with,” her affidavit says.
After it became apparent that she was the victim of an internet banking fraud following an illegal SIM swop, Kruger asked Vodacom for a copy of the voice recording of the call she made to Vodacom, instructing Vodacom not to authorise a SIM swop without her express permission and personal attendance at a Vodacom shop. It took numerous phone calls, emails and later letters from her attorneys before she obtained the recording some two months later.
However, Vodacom has refused to provide Kruger with other information (including documents required in terms of Rica) relating to both the foiled SIM swop and the successful, illegal SIM swop, and copies of agreements between Absa and Vodacom governing SMSes generated by Absa to its clients, as well as agreements between intermediaries acting on behalf of Absa or Vodacom in respect of SMS notifications sent to the bank’s clients.
Vodacom says Kruger is not entitled to this information, because she did not follow the correct procedures in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). And even if she had, Vodacom is not obliged to provide it, in terms of PAIA, it says.
Kruger’s affidavit says her request for this information is legitimate.
Furthermore, it says Vodacom’s attorney has told her that documents, records or information relating to her case will be retained “to the extent that it [Vodacom] is able to”.
Kruger says this statement is concerning and goes to the core of what is necessary to allow her to protect her rights in light of Absa and Vodacom denying any responsibility for her loss. “It confirms the necessity for urgent intervention by the court. In the absence of intervention by the court, the relevant information is unlikely to be effectively and timeously made available or secured,” she says.
A SIM swop is the exchange of an old, damaged or stolen SIM card for a new SIM card. When a SIM is swopped, the current SIM card is deleted from the network while a new SIM card is issued and linked to your cellphone number.