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Beware, money transfer cons on the prowl

By MICHAEL MUGWANG’A | November 24th 2013


You walk into an M-pesa, Airtel Money or Orange Money shop and withdraw cash. But when you get into the next kiosk to buy a packet of milk, the shop attendant demands to know why you are transacting in “fake money”.

A strange number keeps calling you in the middle of the night and in an effort to find out who it is, you send Sh50 using your favourite mobile money transfer service provider. But conversations with some friends reveal that many people have done that and so the caller makes thousands of shillings by repeatedly beeping several numbers.

These and many more are some of the techniques fraudsters are using to commit crime and steal money using mobile money transfer services.

In the first instance, fraudsters with fake notes walk into the money transfer kiosks and withdraw money only to change their minds and redeposit “part” of the withdrawn cash. If they had withdrawn, say Sh10,000, they may suddenly realise that they do not need all that money or want to send some to a friend.

They then give the agent Sh7,000 including some, say, four Sh1,000 fake notes. Because the agent is convinced the money is just what the customer has withdrawn, they hardly check its genuineness and instead go ahead with the transaction.

The fraudster walks out with genuine money in the pocket and his loot in the phone. The next customer walks to withdraw and they are, inadvertently, given some of the fake notes.

In the second instance, the fraudsters come into the money transfer shops armed with telephone companies’ official identification cards and pretend to be inspecting operations. Because they appear genuine, the attendant volunteers information pertaining to the business including how often the boss gives instructions while away on money transfers. They ask and are shown how the boss’s number is saved on the attendant’s phone and as they do that they change the entry to some other number. After minutes of interrogations the “officials” leave and minutes later the attendant gets a message from the “boss” asking them to transfer a certain amount of money to a specified number. By the time the boss and employee are aware, the fraudsters have withdrawn the money and deleted all traces. 

Safaricom, the leading money transfer service providers in the country, acknowledges the threats and investigates all reported cases of fraud or attempted fraud on the network.

Airtel Kenya’s communications officer Patricia Munyororo said  soon they will provide data on the extent of fraud on their network.

Orange’s acting Chief Corporate Communications Officer George Mwakio said they are doing everything to ensure their service is not vulnerable to fraud.


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