Phone dealer loses Rwf1.8m to ‘SIM-swap’ conmen

On September, 8, a Kigali businessman, Theophile Minega, called a family member using his cell phone number, 0783200733 but the line jammed. At first, Minega thought it was network failure, little did he know that his SIM card was tampered with, a method commonly known as SIM-swap. This involves a subscriber request to the operator to process another SIM card to help the subscriber retain his or her number in case of a mobile phone loss.

On September, 8, a Kigali businessman, Theophile Minega, called a family member using his cell phone number, 0783200733 but the line jammed.

At first, Minega thought it was network failure, little did he know that his SIM card was tampered with, a method commonly known as SIM-swap. This involves a subscriber request to the operator to process another SIM card to help the subscriber retain his or her number in case of a mobile phone loss.

On the same day, a group of unknown people clandestinely rushed to MTN Remera branch and within hours, they had Minega’s SIM number swapped.
 
Minega operates two mobile phone shops in Remera and Kanombe.

Using Minega’s line, the group then sent an SMS to a girl who manages one of the shops.

The SMS instructed her to hand over 27 Nokia mobile phones worth over Rwf1.8million to people he supposedly sent to the shop. Shortly, the group visited the shop, and vanished with the phones.

The shop attendant was hoodwinked basing on the SMS she had received from Minega’s SIM number. That evening, Minega learnt that unknown people using his line had duped his shop attendant into believing it was her boss who had sent the sms.

Usually, before the SIMswap process is conducted, the person making the request must produce documents proving to be the rightful owner of the lost SIM card.

Minega wonders why on this particular day, the important process was ignored.

Commenting on the matter last week, Police spokesperson Superintendent Theo Badege said the file of two suspects involved in the case was forwarded to prosecution.

Police told this newspaper one of the suspects was an MTN employee.

The New Times could not by press time independently verify claims that the SIMSwap was done by an MTN employee, who could have been part of the racket.

“I suspect foul play and I have talked to the MTN management over this matter,” Minega told this newspaper.

In a letter dated October, 5, this year, and addressed to MTN CEO Khaled Mikkawi, Minega says he reported the matter to police in Kanombe and Remera and was advised to approach MTN.

In a letter dated November 16 and signed by Mikkawi, Minega is told that investigations are ongoing.

Mikkawi says investigations were conducted and the person who did the SIMSwap did so illegally.

And, according to Mikkawi’s letter, the suspect’s aim was to rob Minega.

However, Mikkawi says none of their employees was involved but an agent working with MTN.

In the letter, addressed to Minega, Mikkawi says the agent was indentified and is in police custody.

The letter says after Minega petitioned MTN, investigations were carried out and the suspect disclosed other accomplices.

The head of Mobile Money Department at MTN, Albert Kinuma, told The New Times that everything was being done to help their client.

When contacted on Wednesday last week, Mikkawi said he does not remember ever signing a letter related to Minega’s case.

A source from Rwanda Regulatory Utility Agency (RURA) said the body had been informed of “a few cases of criminal activities based on illegal SIM Swaps and it was working with telecom operators in a bid to quickly find implementable solutions.”

Ends

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