OPINION

Save Kenyans from mobile phone fraud

It is unacceptable that in this day and age, the government and mobile phone service providers are unable to tame increasing cases of theft from subscribers.

Mobile phones are regarded as some of the greatest invention of our times that have not only made communication easier but also facilitated e-commerce through money transfers and payment for goods and services. While a mobile phone is arguably the most trusted gadget today, it has turned into a curse currently leading millions of users into financial ruin. With more than 30 million subscribers, it is understandable why Kenya has been a hotbed mobile phone fraud.

In the past one week, the media have been awash with news of subscribers falling prey to technology-savvy criminals who have devised deceitful ways of swapping SIM cards to get access to vital information which they then use to access victims’ mobile money  and bank accounts.

According to the Communications Authority,  fraudsters usually make a call pretending to be an employee of a mobile phone service provider and ask unsuspecting subscribers to share personal details, including national identity number, mobile money PIN or SIM card PIN.

With the details, the criminals then illegally replace the SIM card, gaining access to all Sim services including mobile money transfer, mobile and internet banking, voice calls, SMS, and any other services that can be transacted through phone.

Earlier this year, many mobile phone users were also fleeced by international fraudsters who called numbers at random. In the scam, victims would receive brief or missed calls from unknown international numbers and on returning the call, they would be unknowingly redirected to premium numbers that drain lines of airtime. Then there is another category of scammers, suspected to be convicts serving jail terms who lure their unsuspecting victims to send them money using various tricks.

These cases raise fundamental questions; is there nothing that the service providers and the government do to save subscribers from the cons?  Why is it that they appear helpless as Kenyans are milked dry? The government has invested a lot in technology and with political goodwill, authorities can end this nightmare.

It’s an open secret that most fraudsters collude with current or former employees of mobile phone service providers, who have access to customers data. Granted, mobile phone companies need to audit their staff regularly and ensure the schemes are nipped in the bud before Kenyans robbed of heard-earned cash lose faith in them and the gadgets.

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