Biometrics and MTN: A World of Possibilities

MTN South Africa has introduced a new biometric system in all its retail stores in an attempt to reduce fraud and protect its customers.

The biometrics system will be used to authenticate the identity of post-paid subscribers when they undertake a range of transactions‚ including applying for a new contract or an additional SIM‚ performing an upgrade or SIM swap and loading of chargeable value added services.

That is a good start in tackling identity theft (typically a stepping point to other frauds). Despite the pressure to firm up on KYC processes, the fact is that telcos in Africa still struggle with impostors who make their way into the networks using stolen identities. This move is also a good example for African telcos who are active in mobile money – they need to start thinking about the potential of using such solutions to secure their mobile money platforms with regard to frauds that are perpetrated at mobile money agent points. As such, telcos need to start thinking beyond postpaid contracts. African market is over 90% prepaid in many cases and this is where fraudsters in this region focus. As mobile money use goes up, more goldmines for fraudsters are to be found within Africa.

Fraudulent SIM swaps, for example, are normally the initial operation for fraudsters when they target mobile money wallets. An affordable biometric solution interfacing to the mobile money platform should provide a way to deter and/or detect fraudsters who perform SIM swaps as they seek to take advantage of the rapid growth of mobile money services. It is time operators realized that offering mobile money services has effectively turned telcos into digital banks with many cash exit points. Automating the verification of customer identity at registration and during transactions is not too much to ask.

Jacqui O’Sullivan, Corporate Affairs Executive at MTN SA says:

So many South Africans have become victims of identity theft and a first stop for these criminals is often the retail environment. Our fingerprint biometric solution will go a long way in enhancing the experience of our customers and protecting subscribers from the scourge of identity theft.

Well, this is a challenge, not just for MTN in South Africa but for all other telcos in many other countries.

Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu is a director at Integrated Risk Services Ltd and specializes in revenue assurance. He previously worked as Head of Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management at Vodacom's operation in Tanzania, having previously served in the same role at Vodacom Mozambique.

Before his work with Vodacom, Joseph was an internal audit manager for Airtel, with responsibility that covered their 17 countries in Africa. Whilst at Airtel, Joseph led reviews of the Revenue Assurance, Customer Service and Sales & Marketing functions.

Prior to his stint at Airtel, Joseph was an RA manager at Safaricom in Kenya. He holds an MSc Degree in Information Systems.