A Mozambican man is being held in police custody after he was caught red-handed tapping into a farm phone line.
A list of landline and cellphone numbers was seized from the man, who was allegedly busy phoning from a makeshift connection close to the main road into Empangeni.
A call he was making was abruptly interrupted when the Empangeni Farm Watch pounced. A second man ran into the bush.
The suspect was arrested by police, who are investigating a charge of malicious damage to property.
Larry Erasmus, head of the Empangeni Farm Watch private security company, said the line-tappers had sawn through a steel casing to access Telkom lines and had been making calls - at huge cost to the phone line renter, a sugar cane farmer who was shocked to discover a phone account last week for unmade calls amounting to about R500 and another, earlier in 2007, for "close to R2 000".
The incident is another reminder to subscribers to scrutinise their phone accounts and check for unauthorised calls.
Meanwhile, Henk Hoogdalem of Durban has also been a victim of so-called "clip-on" fraud. He said his January account had reflected lengthy calls to Austria, Bangladesh and the Portuguese islands of Sao Tome and Principe, off Nigeria.
He said he had written to Telkom asking for a refund but had not received a response.
"They phoned Bangladesh for over half an hour and this was not during the day, this was at a quarter to twelve at night. I don't have a computer and my January telephone account was R935.
"Last month my account was only R108," Hoogdalem said.
In a statement on Monday, Telkom applauded the Empangeni Farm Watch for its action which resulted in the arrest of a suspect for allegedly tapping into one of its customer's line.
The company has a management system in place to detect clip-on fraud as well as with a team of investigators who investigate such incidents.
"Customers have the right to log a dispute regarding their billing by calling 10210 or report illegal activities to the fraud line - 086 012 4000," said Lulu Letlape, Corporate Communication Group Executive.
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