South African bank Absa and mobile operator MTN have formed a task-force to tackle 'SIM-swap fraud' after a spate of cases saw customer accounts emptied.
The two-stage scam sees criminals first acquire their victim's bank account details through old-fashioned phishing e-mails.
Then they approach the victim's mobile operator and, using fake ID, obtain a replacement SIM. This means that the old SIM is cut off and bank notification texts about activity on the account are sent to the thief.
MTN says that there has been a sharp rise in the number of SIM-swap cases over the last few months, with one couple recently losing R280,000, according to local press reports.
The mobile operator insists that it is not liable for any losses because the "courts have held that there is no causal link between a SIM Swap and defrauding of a customer's bank account".
Nevertheless, following "urgent meetings" with Absa executives, a joint task-force has been set up to look into the problem. Initially, a delay will be put in place when any SIM swap is requested until the legitimate customer has confirmed via SMS. A dual authorisation process is also being investigated.
Meanwhile, Absa has also put a prominent message on its online banking home page linking to advice on the scam for customers.
Adrian Vermooten, head, digital channels and payments, Absa, says: "Collaborating with MTN on reaching a joint solution has allowed us to tighten the screws on this method of e-crime."