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Banking ombud probing how thieves stole over R200k from woman's 'blocked' phone

4 November 2020 5:33 PM

If your phone gets stolen, call your bank right away. Your accounts can be raided.

A woman had her cellphone stolen in the Sandton area and then discovered that her bank accounts had been cleared via her banking app - despite blocking her SIM card with her network service provider.

The one thing to take out from all of this: If your phone is stolen or missing, the first call you must make is to your bank, if you have a banking app on your phone.

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

RELATED: 12 security tips to keep cellphone info and bank account safe from crooks

Joburg resident Cara Anderson had her phone stolen from her at store at Fourways Mall in August this year.

Within 30 minutes of the theft, she contacted Vodacom asking them to blacklist the phone and block the SIM.

She says the consultant confirmed that there was “no access to her device”.

However, two hours later her bank account was raided with the use of one-time pins (OTPs) sent to the phone which had supposedly been blocked.

Thieves helped themselves to over R200 000 in a series of transactions between 5pm and 7am the next day.

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Because she thought she had disabled the SIM card with Vodacom, Anderson says she did not see the need to block her bank account at the time.

She says her phone had multiple security passwords and a facial recognition unlocking mechanism.

Despite this, all her money was stolen and she was left with R42 in her account.

Bank refuses to pay up or show proof

Anderson has lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman for Banking Services, which is currently investigating the matter.

The bank has refused to reimburse her because it claims that the criminals must have had access to her banking passwords stored on her device.

Anderson has denied this.

At no point have I ever stored any passwords for the banking app on my device.

Cara Anderson

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The bank involved will only be named once the Ombud has made a ruling in the investigation.

Anderson also claims that the bank's fraud department did not contact her or flag any unusual activity on her account, despite several large transactions, one of which was R130,000.

She adds that the bank has not provided her with any evidence of the transactions or proof of the claim that her passwords were not secured.

Vodacom 'SIM blocking' protocol questioned

Anderson says that three different consultants from Vodacom acknowledged via phone calls that a "hard lock" should have been implemented on her device.

However, once they realised that she had R200,000 stolen, they apparently changed their tune and said their Standard Operating Procedure was a "soft lock", which only prevents outgoing calls.

The phone was off. I phoned Vodacom immediately and they blocked the SIM. When it's blocked then fraudsters can't get into your device, they might as well throw it away, that was our discussion.

Cara Anderson

The consultant on the phone said there is no access to my device... So I actually relaxed, it was only the following day when I realised my bank accounts had been cleared out.

Cara Anderson

Nobody ever declared that there was a soft lock in place and that they only protect themselves in terms of outgoing calls so that nobody racks up the phone bill which will have to cover.

Cara Anderson

They don't tell you that they do not block incoming calls. So the fraudsters hacked my phone, they passed facial recognition, passed my password, managed to hack pass the banking app - which the bank still denies.

Cara Anderson

Listen to the discussion on ConsumerTalk with Wendy Knowler:

Every Wednesday, on Lunch with Pippa Hudson, Wendy Knowler provides useful insights and tips on how to make the most of your buying power.

For more stories visit the ConsumerTalk feature page.

Got a consumer case you need help resolving?

Email:, put Cape Talk in the subject line, followed by the issue e.g. cellphone contract dispute.

4 November 2020 5:33 PM

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