Couple sues Absa, Vodacom for R1m

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A Gauteng business couple is suing Absa and Vodacom for more than R1.1m, claiming they were swindled out of their company’s working capital through a SIM-swap scam.
When Petrus and Hendrina Malan picked up on the fraud, they say they instructed Absa to place a hold on the funds, but this instruction was allegedly ignored and, two days later, the money was transferred into a suspected fraudster’s account and withdrawn in cash at the Sibaya Casino in Durban.
The Malans have been in business since 2003, manufacturing and retailing roller doors and associated products.
They run their business and its accounts through their PJM Family Trust.
Their high court claim against the bank and cellphone company is for R249,000, the amount taken from the account, about R388,000 for loss of profit and R543,000 spent to recapitalise the business.
In their claim on behalf of the trust, the Malans said to guard against fraud they would initially receive random verification numbers in the form of text messages on their Vodacom cellphone whenever the account was accessed to make payments or add beneficiaries.
On January 9 2016, the cellphone appeared to stop working and was disconnected from the Vodacom network.
The couple reported this to Vodacom, but the service was only restored two days later after Petrus Malan went in person to Vodacom’s Westgate store.
They then discovered a random verification number had been sent to the phone and R249,000 had been transferred to another Absa bank account in the name of a “Mr Ismail”.
Petrus Malan says he immediately alerted the bank to the fraud.
Bank officials advised him that, at that stage, only R5,000 had actually been transferred and the balance was pending.
He instructed that this pending transaction be stopped.
Yet, three days later, he was advised the full amount had been paid into Ismail’s account.
From documents the Malans obtained from the bank using promotion of access to information legislation, they learnt that the account holder was a Luqman Ismail.
The account had been opened a day before the alleged fraud took place – January 8 2016 – and had been deemed “high risk” by the bank.
They also discovered that the money had been withdrawn at the casino.
They allege Vodacom admitted it had facilitated a SIM swap on the account.
“Vodacom used a completely unrelated ID copy to process the SIM swap.
“They failed to verify the person was a trustee and provided a SIM card to an unknown individual not authorised by the trust,” the Malans say, accusing both companies of negligence.
Their attorney, Aneesah Patel, said the trust had tried to reach an amicable solution but Absa and Vodacom denied liability and blamed the trust.
Absa did not respond to a request for comment.
However, in its pleadings, it suggests the trust must have disclosed personal information, including the online banking password, to unauthorised third parties.
Vodacom confirmed that it denied liability and was defending the matter.
“Vodacom treats any fraudulent activity on its network in a very serious light and has introduced a number of measures to help prevent fraud,” it said...

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