NAIROBI, (Xinhua) --
Kenyans have become cautious as they transact
cash on mobile phones following increase in fraud.
The fraudsters are
threatening the fast-growing industry by devising new schemes
through which they are defrauding the public millions of U.S.
The latest scheme
involves Sim card swapping, through which the criminals call a
subscriber pretending they are an employee of one of the leading
They would then ask
details that include Simcard password, nation identification
number and name.
Using these details,
they then replace the Simcard of the victims and use the new one
to wipe money from the mobile and bank accounts.
have lost millions in the latest fraud that has rocked the
sector and shows how the crime is morphing.
One person lost
20,000 dollars in a matter of hours after his SIM card was
swapped by the fraudsters and the new ones used to commit the
The money was wiped
out from his two bank accounts, with police currently
investigating the matter. For others, the fraudsters have taken
loans from mobile credit firms in the victims’ names, leaving a
trail of agony.
The cases have sent
a chill in the spine of the close to the 30 million mobile money
subscribers across the East African nation.
“I had linked mobile
money account to my bank account but I went to my bank last week
and withdrew from the service to protect my money following
increased fraud,” Amos Muindi, a businessman in Nairobi, said
Muindi noted that
some of victims are having their Sim cards replaced without even
receiving any call from the fraudsters.
“The crime is
complex. A friend woke up in the morning and found his SIM card
blocked. After checking with the service provider, he found it
had been replaced. The fraudsters then withdrew 1,500 dollars
from his bank account and took a loan in his name which he is
now repaying,” he said.
But this is not the
only form of fraud targeting the East African nation’s
In another schemes,
the fraudsters are randomly ‘flashing’ people using
international phone numbers.
Flashing is a term
used in Kenya to mean someone calling a number and disconnecting
before the person picks. Once one finds the missed call, when
they call back, all their airtime is whipped out.
“I found a missed
call from an international number and thought it was my sister
studying in India who had called. I called back and all my 5
dollars airtime was wiped out in a second,” said journalist
Mobile phone fraud
is taking root in the East African nation because of three
things, according to Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT
Solutions in Nairobi.
First it is the huge
volumes of cash moved through mobile phones. Last year, Kenyans
transacted 36 million dollars on mobile phone, according to the
Second is the low
awareness on fraud among the people using the service, with the
number of subscribers standing at 30 million.
And lastly, the
linking of mobile money tobank accounts for convenience has made
fraudsters devices new schemes to target subscribers knowing
they can steal more.
Linked to the fraud
as employees of the telecoms offering the service, with police
arresting one last week.
Mwaso noted the fact
that telecom employees are involved makes the crimes harder to
fight. Last week police arrested an employee of leading telecom
Safaricom over the fraud.
Authority last week issued an alert on SIM card swapping and
warned against disclosing sensitive personal identification
information to third parties.
Francis Wangusi, the
Director General, noted disclosing information that can be used
to distinguish or trace identity, such as mobile money PIN,
national ID number, bank account PIN, password and date of birth
exposed subscribers to fraud.
“Fraudsters want you
to act first and think later. If the request conveys a sense of
urgency, or uses high-pressure tactics be skeptical; never let
their urgency influence your careful review,” he added.