How to keep your cash safe from mobile money fraudsters

Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) on Tuesday paraded 15 suspected criminals arrested, at various intervals starting January 28, for belonging to a criminal gang that has defrauded gullible people.

Marie-Michelle Umuhoza, the RIB spokesperson said that besides reporting fraud cases so that they can be investigated and the culprits arrested, the public also needs to be cautious of suspicious mobile money scams.

Among other things, Umuhoza urged people not to share their Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) with anyone, be it vendors or agents.

Umuhoza said people should learn to ignore suspicious calls and messages, or better still, report them to the police.

People are also urged to ensure they do not choose easy-to-guess pin codes such as birth dates as their PIN numbers since third parties can easily breakthrough, she said.

Speaking to reporters, some of the suspects explained how the mobile money fraud is done.

By and large, fraudsters send an SMS that seems to have originated from a real mobile money service provider. They send scam messages to subscribers with the intention of tricking them into sending funds to a designated number.

Some of them use different SIM cards and phones to perpetuate their deceitful acts.

Anonymous calls from fraudsters are also a common trap.

Fraudsters often send fake SMS messages to subscribers’ phones alerting the customer of cash in a transaction on his or her mobile money account.

Shortly after, they then call the customer claiming to have erroneously sent money to the wrong customer number.

They apologize and beg to be given their money back, a hoax many people have fallen for because, innocently, before checking the balance on their mobile money, the victims make a transaction to reverse the ‘erroneously sent money’ from their account, and end up losing money.

Street mobile money vendors have fallen prey too.

“These thieves know that were are usually busy and they target you when you have many clients. I was once duped into initiating a transaction and then handing over my phone to the customer to punch in his number,” Pascasie Umutoni, a mobile money agent in Remera told The New Times.

“This is how I lost money. He gave the phone back to me to complete the transaction by inserting in his PIN code and I never thought twice about it. Anyhow, that is past. I was unwise then but it never happened to me again. I am smarter now.”

As a preventive measure, she urges subscribers to always confirm the name of a receiving person or the name of the account someone is sending money to.

“Pease do not be duped by a stranger who calls telling you that he or she has sent money mistakenly to your account. In case you believe their story, please first check your balance before you proceed to do any transactions,” she said.

“Sometimes I find it funny that people, even those who are well educated fall these tricks but when I recall how I was duped, I know any busy or stressed person can be tricked. But it shouldn’t happen if we are vigilant.”

Zachariah Ngendahimana, 25, one of the suspected fraudsters arrested last week, actually noted that people can protect themselves by checking and recording their balance after every transaction is completed, and when they receive a suspicious message.

The government has in recent years embarked on efforts to increase value of payment transactions done electronically as percentage of GDP.

According to the National Strategy for Transformation (NST1), the digital payment systems are expected to be scaled up from 26.9 per cent in 2017 to 80 per cent in 2020.

This, according to the NTS2 blueprint, will be done through different efforts which include of sensitizations to increase uptake of electronic and digital financial services.

jkaruhanga@newtimesrwanda.com

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