Are Foreign Visitors Being Ripped off at our Airports? ZA Confidential investigates Cell C.

Are foreign visitors being ripped off after they fly into South Africa?  It has been well reported that some are targeted, followed from the airport, and then robbed when they get to their destination.

However, can there be a scam involving something as everyday as a SIM card?

I am not saying that fraud is happening.  But I have every reason to believe it is possible.

I was recently at ORT to meet a friend who was flying in from Istanbul.   After he finally emerged from the bureaucratic checks, he needed to get a local SIM card.   The MTN shop had sold out, there was a big queue at Vodacom, so he went to Cell C.

Now George is no ordinary international jet setter with an excellent taste in friends.  He runs an IT business, knows a hell of a lot about cyber-security, and can spot a potential scam.

He was concerned that his identity was not recorded, as is required, during the transaction.  The SIM was fitted in his phone but the credit-card sized plastic holder from which it was extracted was kept by the salesman.  It was only after we had navigated several buggered escalators to the car park that he realised this, and insisted on returning.

When he asked for his plastic, which he is adamant contains enough information for an insider to cancel the SIM and grab the data, he was told he didn’t need it.

Once again, I am not saying there was fraud.  I am just very suspicious, and clearly proper procedures were not followed at this shop, and the same may be happening at other outlets both at ORT and at other SA airports.

So what does Cell C have to say for itself?    I asked for their comment and here is an (edited) version of their responses.

“Yes, it is a requirement under the Act (RICA) to obtain the personal information of a customer before a Sim Card can be activated on a mobile network. The same applies to Non South African citizens or individuals who do not permanently reside in South Africa. In order to activate a SIM, a customer must provide his or her full names and surname, identity or passport number and address where the person will reside while in South Africa. If an employee is found to be in breach of this process, the necessary action will be taken. In order to investigate this matter, we require the MSISDN of the affected customer.”

I did put them in touch with the customer.  I also asked why the plastic on which details of the SIM were printed had not been given to the customer, and this is what they replied:

“The customer should be given the choice to keep or discard the Sim card holder, The store employee should therefore have asked the customer if he wanted to keep the card holder. We will investigate this matter further.”

So, Cell C, is there a scam?

“We are not aware of any such scams. The information printed on the card alone cannot give you direct access to information as the cell number is not printed on the card. Nonetheless, we will investigate the matter further.”

It has been a week or two but I have heard nothing further from Cell C.

As I said earlier, I am told that if you are on the inside, and a crook, you can do a lot of things with just the PIN and PUK numbers.

As a footnote, my mate was back at the airport later in the same week, topped up his data, but was again not asked to identify himself.

He had been asked on his initial visit to the shop how long he was staying in the country.  This may have been polite chit chat, but it might have been more sinister.

George and I smell a rat.  If it is just Micky Mouse inefficiency, it is still a worry.

Tweet of the Day:

Mark Twain (@TheMarkTwain):  A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.

ZA Confidential is a subscription newsletter.   To join the elite, to invite us to events with edible food and drinkable wine, for sponsorship discussions or any other communication, please contact:    

Follow us on twitter:  @zaconfidential

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s