- Subscribers on Safaricom and Airtel Kenya can report fraudulent phone numbers by texting them to 333. Fake SMS can also be forwarded to the same number.
- Reports can also be done directly to the customer care of the respective networks.
Cases of mobile phone fraud are quite prevalent in Kenya. This high rate can be attributed to the mass adoption of mobile money services such as M-PESA and Airtel Money.
The success of mobile money services has meant that integral parts of the economy now heavily depend on their platforms. Indeed, services such as mobile banking, loan apps, e-commerce and betting & lottery businesses wouldn’t be as successful as they’re today without the pivotal role played by mobile money.
This success has however allowed different kinds of crime to flourish on the sidelines, the most common ones being fraud and theft of mobile phones.
In the case of fraud, the criminals typically call or text an unsuspecting subscriber pretending to be from the network operator or their bank. Once the trust is established, they trick the victim into revealing their personal detail (such as ID number), PINs or have them dial codes that grant them access to their accounts.
Once access is gained, the criminals waste no time emptying their mobile money wallets and banking accounts. Some even go as far as taking loans on their behalf from various loan apps, or the integrated facilities such as M-Shwari, KCB-MPESA or the overdraft service — Fuliza.
The other common scam used by criminals is to spam users with SMS claiming to offer cheap loans from legitimate banks. Unfortunately, some people do also fall for this rather obvious artifice.
Network operators have in the past come under fire for not doing enough to curb these fraudulent cases. Indeed, in some cases, their very own employees have been implicated in some scams.
One of the earliest measures to stamp out these illegal activities came from the government, who made it mandatory for consumers to register with their National ID or other identification documents when purchasing a SIM Card.
Unfortunately, this measure proved ineffective as criminals soon found loopholes to escape detection, most prominently by using lost or stolen identity IDs to register SIM cards.
This has been going on for several years until much recently when the government mandated the network operators to update SIM registration details for their existing subscribers. Clearly, the buck stops with the network operators as far as most mobile phone fraud goes.
Safaricom, which is simultaneously the operator with the largest subscriber base, and the owner of the most successful mobile money platform, M-PESA, is inevitably the most targeted network by criminals.
The operator introduced a voice biometric service called Jitambulishe as a more secure way to authenticate sensitive tasks.
Much recently, the network operators have become proactive with Safaricom spearheading a fraud awareness campaign as have Airtel with Kaa Chonjo — all this in an effort to educate subscribers on how they can better protect themselves from fraudsters.
Alongside these campaigns is the introduction of number to report fraudulent phone numbers. The number — 333 — is a toll-free number which users can use to forward fraudsters phone numbers or their fake SMS messages. This number only works with SMS.
The report line currently works with Safaricom and Airtel Kenya networks. An equivalent service is not available on Telkom Kenya, however users can always report the numbers directly to the customer care lines on all networks.