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Opinions of Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Columnist: Suleiman Mustapha

MTN bundles out mobile money fraudsters

Modern technology in mobile telephony has enhanced quality of life. In its trail however, is a streak of concern; easy technology for users could mean easy technology for fraudsters.

Mobile money fraudsters are getting more innovative with new strategies that are getting some users off guard. In a new sneaky scheme, some nurses have fallen prey to the fraudsters who tout promises of payment of outstanding salaries.

This scheme seems to be an adaptation by the fraudsters following the announcement by the government that outstanding salaries of nurses are to be paid.

There is also an adaptation of the ever notorious Ponzi scheme among some of these fraudsters who promise to double money of Mobile Money users. Many unsuspecting users have also fallen victim to this scheme.

Evolving fraudsters bundle

Indeed, it has been a long drawn battle against the ever adapting and evolving fraudsters but mobile telephony giant, MTN, say they are getting a handle on the schemes.

Many industry experts believe creating the necessary awareness to sensitize users is the real deal. The company has consistently embarked on awareness campaigns, and is also working closely with the security agencies to nab the culprits.

This is yielding good dividends and this year, there has been about a 50 per cent rise in the number of reports of failed mobile money fraud attempts. Evidently, users are becoming more vigilant and suspicious of preying phone calls.

Strikingly, in the new scheme targeted at nurses, fraudsters operate from a position of perceived influence.

They succeed in getting information relevant to the nurses; first, they make that ‘vital’ introductory call that serve notice that they are workers in the Controller & Accountant General's Department working on salaries.

Unnerving calls

The call alone can be unnerving but inviting, and the fraudsters follow up with even more revealing details; the name of the nurse and the outstanding salaries owed by the State.

How they lay hands on such information is unclear but certainly this sweeps some nurses off their feet. Desperate nurses have been led to commit some money for the ‘expeditious’ processing of salaries. They then ultimately find out that it is only a scam; they have parted with money to fraudsters, not workers in the Controller & Accountant General's Department.

The threat of such schemes is not in doubt but MTN assures the public that the fraudsters will ultimately be nailed.

Since the beginning of the year, the company has been working closely with the security agencies to address the challenge and Mr Godwin Tamakloe, MTN Mobile Money executive is optimistic that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

A matter of time

In a zoom conversation with some members of the Journalists for Business Advocacy (JBA), Mr Tamakloe said 13 people have been arrested since the beginning of the year and many more are under the radar of the security agencies. It is a matter of time and many more would be nabbed.

“The challenge is sometimes how to trace these fraudsters. They can be evasive. They produce one address when they register their accounts but actually stay in a different place, sometimes in a different region,” Mr. Tamakloe complains. “We picked a group of fraudsters last week; and we are targeting more,” he assures.

The significant progress has not come cheap and easy. A lot of investments and sacrifices and cooperation has been invested in the effort, but going forward requires the vigilance of all. We will continue to demand our pound from duty bearers, but we are equally responsible to help stem the tide of fraudulent schemes.

No one knows the nature and sophistication of the next wave of mobile money fraud schemes and MTN continues to drum home the need for all to be alert.

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