DUBIOUS SIM SWAP

IEBC database hacked, 61,000 names stolen for fraud

Suspect believed to be part of a gang that specialises in online fraud.

In Summary
  • Data found in his possession contains names of registered voters, their ID numbers and dates of birth.
  • The suspects contact different wireless carriers and convince the customer service agents that they are the true owners of the line.
Police search through SIM cards belonging to Safaricom, Airtel and Telcom mobile service providers recovered from a suspect at JKUAT on July 16.
PHONE SCAM SYNDICATE: Police search through SIM cards belonging to Safaricom, Airtel and Telcom mobile service providers recovered from a suspect at JKUAT on July 16.
Image: HANDOUT

Police are holding a suspect who has been operating a high-tech mobile phone scam syndicate in the country.

The suspect was arrested on Friday and a gunny bag full of Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom SIM cards recovered.

According to police, the suspect hacked into the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission database and acquired personal details of 61,617 registered voters from a county in Western Kenya.

The data contains the names of registered voters, their ID numbers and dates of birth.

The 21-year-old is suspected to be part of a syndicate believed to have swindled unsuspecting members of the public out of millions of shillings.

He was arrested in Juja by a team from the Crime Research and Intelligence Bureau, supported by Safaricom’s fraud investigations team and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology security officers.

The suspect had swindled an M-Pesa agent. The suspect, who was masquerading as an M-Pesa customer care attendant, called the agent and lured her into dialing some unspecified codes.

By the time the agent realised that she was being duped, she had lost money from her money lending account. The amount lost has not been disclosed.

The money was sent to an M-Pesa account belonging to one of the fraudulently acquired SIM cards, before being transferred to an account at Cooperative Bank.

The suspect is believed to have previously worked for one of Kenya’s mobile phone networks.

Using the fraudulently acquired personal details, the suspects convince customer service agents that they are the true owners of the line.

Investigations show that upon successful SIM swapping, the suspects are granted full access to the victim’s online accounts.

The suspect is part of a gang that specialises in online fraud. Most of them come from Mulot, Bomet county.

Detectives are digging into their past as part of efforts to understand what drives the fraudsters.

Over the last five years, several suspects, all from Mulot, have been arrested over SIM swapping, M-Pesa and general fraud.

DCI has flagged Bomet as a hotspot for mobile and bank fraudsters.

The fraudsters do SIM swaps by cloning victim’s accounts before stealing. In some cases, they use the victim’s details to borrow money from online lending platforms.

Most of them are young and known to be heavy spenders at social joints. Ironically, they never drive sleek cars but instead use boda bodas, those who drive own Toyota Proboxes.

The area, along the Narok-Bomet-Kaplong highway, has gained notoriety as the headquarters for mobile money fraud in the country.

Police say the group is mixed with university students and high school dropouts.

In March, detectives arrested five suspects in Kasarani, Nairobi. They recovered more than 2,000 SIM cards, 15 mobile phones and a register with the names of victims.  Four of them were from Mulot while one of them was from Embu.

In October 2019, a group of seven suspects were arrested in Kabete, Kiambu county. Police recovered over 200 SIM cards and several mobile phones.

Police say they are yet to crack the link between the two places and the fraud. Most of the suspects are still in court.

(Edited by Bilha Makokha)