LOSSES INCURRED

ADHIAMBO RAHAB: Customers cheat businesspeople through M-Pesa

Cash payment discouraged because it could catalyse the spread of the virus

In Summary

•Many businesspeople have opted to use till numbers which is a bit safe.

•Unless caution is taken, some businesses will completely cripple by the time things get back to normal.

An employee assists a customer to set-up M-Pesa money transfer service on his handset inside a mobile phone care centre in Nairobi.
An employee assists a customer to set-up M-Pesa money transfer service on his handset inside a mobile phone care centre in Nairobi.
Image: REUTERS

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, M-Pesa transactions have become common among Kenyans.

The government in partnership with the World Health Organization discouraged cash payments that could catalyse the spread of the virus.

Kenyans have since adapted to Lipa na Mpesa and Send Money when buying goods and services, but this has become a platform for fraudsters to con even the small scale businesspeople like vegetable vendors and hotel owners.

Two months ago, Lucy Nyawira, a vegetable vendor in Uasin Gishu, became a victim of this ordeal when a customer bought goods worth Sh620 then paid via M-Pesa.

Lucy confirmed the transaction but 10 minutes later, the customer reversed the money and switched off his mobile phone.

This has made some businesspeople like those in the transport sector decline M-Pesa payments to avoid falling victim.

Mwangaza Hotel located in Uasin Gishu county has counted losses in a similar way, where customers would come in a group, order food and one of the members would pay then forward the same message to the rest, who would use the same message to claim that they had paid.

In other cases, customers cancel the transaction before it's complete.

In some cases when the shopkeeper is not keen enough due to the large number of customers making the shopkeeper distracted, customers use tricks like sending 'please call me' messages, and the shopkeeper would assume the money has been sent without checking.

Taking action against such fraudsters has not been easy since there is no tangible evidence or witness.

Many business people have opted to use till numbers which is a bit safe compared to send money since unless the business person is contacted, the money is irreversible.

Stephen Chacha a businessman within Eldoret says he has had instances where customers pay Sh1 instead of Sh100 and because it's during rush hour, he realizes it when doing calculations.

“Reporting the matter to the police becomes a bit hard due to lack of evidence since the customer can claim he sent the money to you as a wrong number and did not buy from you,” he says.

“The police also need you to pay them some money before acting on the case and you end up spending more than what you lost, in an attempt to catch the criminal and therefore we sweep the issues under the carpet.”

In as much as M-Pesa has made work easier especially by minimizing contact, many business people continue counting losses and unless they are on the lookout, some businesses will completely cripple by the time things get back to normal.

 

Edited by Kiilu Damaris