Focus on SIM Swaps and Mobile Money Fraud in Kenya

An alarming statistic claims that more than 70 percent of Kenyans have either been victims of financial fraud or know someone else who has. A lot of work is being done by the ‘or’ in that sentence; if the typical Kenyan knows 100 people then that statistic would mean 0.7 percent of Kenyans have suffered financial fraud. Nevertheless, any fraud is too much fraud, and it is clear that criminals often use mobile phones to steal from ordinary Kenyans. That is why Swiss anti-fraud business Myriad Connect has recently been promoting their services around Kenya, explaining to Business Daily Africa that:

SIM swap fraud is one of the most prolific forms of financial service fraud. More than 90 per cent of Kenyan banking leaders identify SIM swap as an issue for their organisations.

They separately told CIO East Africa that…

…57 percent of consumers said that they have been victims of SMS-phishing while 74% of financial institutions in Kenya use one-time-password (OTP) via SMS.

These claims cannot be verified without scrutinizing the research which was conducted, but the seriousness of mobile money fraud is illustrated by the hard line adopted by Kenyan operator Safaricom. Their 2017 annual report transparently stated that 52 Safaricom staff were dismissed for engaging in fraud. Recently a Safaricom employee was charged with computer fraud in open court, having been accused of transferring KES38,500 (USD384) from a customer’s M-Pesa account.

With voice and SMS revenues in terminal decline, telcos like Safaricom are showing how to diversify income by creating new kinds of digital services. Alongside mobile money, Safaricom also provides Kenyans with micro loans and online auctions. Trust is vital to any financial transaction. Safaricom realizes that it needs to maintain customer trust by doing its utmost to detect wrongdoing, then by actively and openly seeking punishment for any criminals who attempt to steal from subscribers.

Safaricom will be sharing their expertise in fighting mobile crime through a special panel discussion at the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG) Nairobi conference that they will host in September. The expert panel on the risks surrounding mobile financial transactions will feature:

  • Agnes Magero, who is responsible for fighting money laundering at Safaricom;
  • Hiten Patel, Senior AML Manager at Vodafone;
  • Nasia Seria, General Manager of Mobile Financial Services at MTN; and
  • Douglas Jardine, who oversees revenue assurance across Vodacom Group.

The panel will be moderated by Commsrisk contributor Joseph Nderitu. Joseph formerly worked at Safaricom and is currently Head of RAFM at Vodacom Tanzania.

RAG Nairobi will be held at Safaricom’s head office on September 11th and 12th. As with all RAG conferences, staff working for telcos and regulators are welcome to come for free. Find out more from here.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.