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September 24, 2018

Mobile money: The Double-edged sword

An employee assists a customer to set-up M-Pesa money transfer servive on his handset inside a mobile phone care centre operated by Kenyan's telecom operator Safaricom; in the central business district of Kenya's capital Nairobi, May 11, 2016. REUTERS
An employee assists a customer to set-up M-Pesa money transfer servive on his handset inside a mobile phone care centre operated by Kenyan's telecom operator Safaricom; in the central business district of Kenya's capital Nairobi, May 11, 2016. REUTERS

Pamela Momanyi, a business woman at Wakulima Market, received a message from an unknown number notifying her of Sh4,500 sent to her through M-Pesa.

The “sender” later called asking her to send back the cash - even if it was half - because it had been sent erroneously. She sent back the full amount without verifying the number, only to realise later she was conned. That is how Pamela joined a list of thousands of Kenyans who have lost billions of shillings to mobile money fraudsters.

A study released yesterday shows Kenyans lose an average of Sh15,000 per financial service transaction per month to suspect mobile phone calls and short message services.

Kenya Financial Transaction Fraud study indicates more than 70 per cent of Kenyans have been victims of financial fraud, or know someone who has.

Further, the data reveals one is more more likely to be conned through a mobile money transaction compared to ATM cards, online banking or use of cheques.

Forty-one per cent of mobile money consumers lose between Sh1,000 to Sh5,000 a month, 39 per cent of online bankers also lose the same amount of money in 30 days.

Most consumers who lose Sh15,000 and above per month use bank cheques while a majority of victims of online shopping lose upto Sh5,000 within the same period through mobile money or card transactions.

Suspect phone calls and SMS messages have been recorded as the most used forms of defrauding consumers at 73 and 57 per cent respectively. E-mails and social media followed at 19 and 17 per cent.

“While financial service transaction fraud is a global issue, Kenya has been a leader in the adoption of mobile and digital payments, which unfortunately brings with it a growing risk of fraud,” Myriad Connect general manager Fabien Delanaud said.

The report further states there is a rising trend where criminals leverage on SIM swaps or lost SIM cards to access bank and mobile money accounts.

“When a customer lets their operator know that their SIM card is damaged, lost or stolen, criminal groups gather personal data then pose as contract owners to secure a new SIM ,” Myriad business development manager Willie Kanyeki said.

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