• Sandra Caganoff

What happens when you have your cell phone stolen


I am an unsuspicious person, never imagining that crime will happen to me. So when I was walking with Terry S at the dog park and heard the words “Don’t Move” I thought the two men, both dressed in athletic gear, were warning us about something.


Oh no, a snake, is what I thought.

Until they repeated themselves.

“Don’t Move Or We Can Shoot You.”

We stopped moving. And realised quickly what was happening.


Terry said she felt encouraged that they used the word 'can shoot' and not 'will shoot.'


I remember feeling grateful they were wearing masks.

One man blocked me, the other, Terry. The guys (what do you call someone who holds you up, a thief, a mugger, an assailant) were slick, professional and quietly sinister.

They knew what they wanted.

We handed over our phones, they demanded Terry's earrings and took my ring but gave it back when they realised it was of no value. They were almost polite when asking if we had anything else to hand over.


We said no.

When they walked off quietly into the night (the forest) we stood, shellshocked, then put our arms around each other. It was a moment, actually, like two young girls who suddenly realise their extreme vulnerability. We held hands and walked towards help. The car guard, Charlie, called security. A dog walker made a few phone calls for us.

Cyclists rode past and said: ‘Oh, those are the victims.'

Everyone was extremely kind.

But that was only the beginning.

Because this is what happens after you have your phone stolen.

No matter what you do, what you blacklist or what you block, what passcodes you have or what security you have put in, the thieves get into your life. They do not want your phone for the machinery. They want it for what is inside.


And they have very sophisticated ways of getting inside.


I blocked and blacklisted my phone and sim card within 40 minutes of the crime. I did a sim swap with Vodacom once I'd borrowed a phone. And much later in the day, when I thought everything was calm and quiet and was kind of in recovery, not realising I had clicked on phishing links that looked like 'Found Phone' links, the thieves managed to get my new sim swap locked, got all communication directed to them and hacked into my bank accounts. They changed my withdrawal limits. They hijacked the OTPs.


They stole close to R 20 thousand.


THAT IS A LOT OF MONEY.


This is also what happens when you have your phone stolen.

Your bank cares. Nedbank does. They did what was needed to to re-secure my accounts. They have assured me I will get a refund, but the process is slow. The case is sitting with forensics who tracked and traced the fraud and are dealing with it.

Your phone provider does not care as much. Mine is Vodacom. My number got hacked, hours after doing the sim swap. Getting hold of fraud has been near impossible. I have held on the phone for a zillion hours. And I have pushed 1, 2, 3 and 4 and the hash key more times than I care to remember. It's been - tricky.

Why am I writing this?


It's more like, why didn't I write about this when it happened, ten days ago. I think because it's so loaded, writing about crime in Johannesburg. And because I love our city and this has never happened to me before and we were walking in an isolated part of the park where everyone says don't walk so we did make a mistake and it was early and I know I shouldn't have to make excuses about anything but, I do.


But also because I want everyone to know that if your phone does gets stolen, and I hope it never happens, BLOCK all your banking and cards as quickly as you can. Don't only blacklist your phone and block your sim but have the number flagged. Up your banking security. Don't trust your sim swap. Don't click on any weird emails, no matter how convincing they may seem.


I am also writing this because - I was held up with a friend. THANK GOD IT WAS THIS FRIEND!!!! If I had to be held up with anyone, what a stupid thing to say, I would choose her. I love her as much as I loved my phone, which was A LOT! After the incident, she hugged me so tightly that my ribs are still bruised. We cried, we laughed, we sorted out the admin together (we are still doing it, it's horrible), we worked out WHAT TO DO and I am so glad I was not alone.


It will take a lot more than two thieves dressed in ill fitting lycra to scare us.


Vodacom, on the other hand, have left us whimpering.


*

Pic credit to Terry, a few minutes before it all happened.








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