South Africans all know the pain of air time and data prices. So when your air time suddenly starts disappearing, it is not only incredibly annoying but it also affects your budget.
Air time theft is a very real crime and it is on the rise in our country. What’s worse is that some users won’t even know they are out of data, and continue to use it on their contracts, racking up massive debt. Although it doesn’t always make the news, the complaint of lost air time has become such an issue that ICASA has recently rolled out now regulations which have been created to restrict out of bundle data and forced service providers to gain consent from customers before simply depleting the airtime balance.
Who is behind the disappearance?
Sadly, this is nothing new, and is actually a phenomenon that has been going on for decades and is only now coming into the spotlight and being regulated.
The biggest reason why customers are losing their data is mostly down to one kind of entity: WASPs. These rouge wireless application service providers are capable of secretly, and fraudulently, subscribing thousands of users to their content subscription. And thousands more are added each month.
Users are then billed for the services of these WASPs, with the permission of mobile service providers, and all of this is done without the knowledge, let alone the consent, of the user. The billing is then exploited to the point that users run out of data but are still left with the hefty bill and the loss of valuable airtime.
The scary thing is that South African SIM cards are very much vulnerable to these entities and mobile service providers take no responsibility for what happens. It is up to the user to check their account each month and make sure that they are not being defrauded.
Should you discover that you are being defrauded, the battle is only just beginning, as solving this issue is a lot more complicated than it perhaps should be. Trying to reclaim your money from the WASP or from the mobile provider are both equally frustrating.
The best way to not fall victim, is to educate yourself and perhaps change your service provider. Some operators will allow you to block the WASP while others will give you a few ways to check whether or not a WASP has attached itself to your account.
To date, billions of rands have been stolen from innocent mobile users and there is nothing that can really be done to stop it. Generally, users only find out they are being robbed once their account arrives at the end of the month. That means WASPs can take thousands from you, before you even notice that something is wrong.