Safaricom fires 33 employees for breach of policy, M-Pesa fraud

Safaricom outlet at I&M Building, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Safaricom fired 33 employees in the year ended March 2023 for fraud-related offences, up from 24 a year before.

The telco's latest sustainability report released last week indicated it conducted 33 investigations into alleged fraud, dismissing the 33 staff involved in the offences.

Nine cases were taken to government agencies after the investigation for further action, Safaricom said.

A majority of the cases probed (17) were related to breach of policy and procedure while another 14 were related to SIM-swap cases. 

This was up from nine and 10 the previous year respectively, underlining the challenge of fighting the vices.

Two cases on the other hand involved asset misappropriation.

The report by Safaricom covers the period within its fiscal year from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023.

SIM-swap, a prevalent form of fraud, has resulted in numerous Kenyans losing money running into hundreds of thousands of shillings per victim.

SIM stands for subscriber identification module, and SIM cards are used to authenticate subscribers on mobile phones.

SIM swapping consists of tricking a provider into transferring a subscriber’s phone number to a SIM card controlled by someone else. 

Once that person gets the phone number, it can be used to reset the subscriber’s passwords and access online accounts.

SIM-swap fraud is not only a concern to Kenya but other countries across the continent and the globe.

In SIM card swap fraud, a fraudster usually makes a call pretending to be an employee of a mobile network operator.

When a mobile user picks up the call, the fraudster asks the unsuspecting mobile subscriber to share their information such as their national ID number, mobile money PIN or SIM card PIN, among other sensitive details.

After obtaining the information, the fraudster swaps the SIM card- thereby gaining access to all the SIM services, including mobile money transfer, mobile and internet banking, voice calls, SMS, data services and any other service accessible through the SIM.

Safaricom, which is Kenya's biggest telco and most profitable, says it has beefed up its fraud management over the years by conducting training for staff in fraud awareness sessions, together with fraud training for M-Pesa agents, dealers and suppliers.

The telco, which is East Africa's largest company by asset base, says it is also arming its customers and suppliers including M-Pesa agents with skills that will enable them to safeguard, detect and prevent social engineering attacks and criminal syndicates that target M-Pesa users.

“Our robust corporate governance framework ensures that we stay ahead of cyber threats, maintain data privacy and proactively manage fraud, particularly in the light of ever-changing social engineering schemes,” said Safaricom.

“We also conducted industry training on the Code of Business for Business in Kenya and collaborated with banks and savings and credit co-operative societies to implement joint controls on fraud prevention. 
"Our customers benefitted from our campaigns to help them combat fraud.”

Safaricom has since 2014 hosted a mobile money investigations unit comprising officers from the National Police Service.

“Campaigns ranged from quarterly above-the-line campaigns and monthly SMSs to social media awareness campaigns hosted by influencers we had identified as having many followers,” said Safaricom.

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