Three days ago, I woke up to my friend Sammy’s anguish via his WhatsApp status. It’s easy to know what’s happening especially these days where statuses give us a peep into various people’s private lives. So I asked him what the problem was and he revealed that he woke up and somehow, hackers or scammers or however someone might want to address them, had got into his MTN account number and withdrew all his mobile money.
Imagine waking up to zero balance! Yes, a lot of people have been inclined more towards mobile money services, as this is cheaper and more accessible than the traditional banks. Come to think of it, there is a way mobile money makes life easy. You don’t have to find an ATM card, walk around to find a bank or machine, so that you can send money to your sick relative or to pay your sister’s tuition. Life is so easy as all you can do is sit back in your couch, press a few digits, and dung! The transaction has been made!
What I don’t understand however is why these scams are on the rise and the telephone networks are not doing anything about it except, of course, a lot of promises. Just because the majority of your customers have not been victims of this doesn’t mean that you should be negligent. How on earth, honestly, is someone even supposed to hack into my mobile money account? What does cybersecurity mean to you as a company if these incidents are on-going?
To the layman, these things don’t make sense because come on, I have my phone, I have not tried to make any withdrawal, I have not even shared my pin with anyone. In fact, I am in my chair watching Agataliko Nfufu (Local news), thinking about how I am going to go about my business tomorrow and all I get up to is an empty balance? This is especially absurd as the same case has happened before as reported in March 2015. Read the report of how these fraudsters do it here. In a previous report, MTN Uganda said the company was upgrading its mobile money system when the fraudsters took advantage of gaps in the system. But that was in May 2012. Why are we still struggling with the same issue?
What is even more disturbing is that some of the stuff or employers, and sometimes the body itself, is indulged as you’ll discover if you read the report above. networks like these, would you say they care?
Read an article on how mobile money scammers are linked to telecom stuff HERE.
I remember while in Kenya, I had a problem with Airtel. This was not about mobile money but it just happened that as soon as I would subscribe to data bundles, they would be gone in less than five minutes. Now that was annoying. I had no background apps running, couldn’t claim that I was an apple user, my phone was as android as before. I am also a heavy data user so I would always buy enough to last me a week, but for some reasons, I had to make this subscription thrice a day until I got access to their customer care and all they could tell me was that at the time, they didn’t have a machine, that was supposed to keep track of that or something like that.
The customer care respondent said their only advice was that I go to my phone settings, switch off mobile data, and then make a subscription. After a while, I would have to switch it back on after the data subscription has been confirmed. Can you imagine? What was that even supposed to mean? Why didn’t that happen in Uganda? What has my phone’s settings got to do with them giving me my data bundles and not cutting them as soon as I had loaded them. I thought that something was missing and up to now, I get angry thinking about it despite the fact that I am still their loyal customer. How can a big network be operating in a country without something as essential as that? So how many customers were experiencing that in a day? How many had the courage to file the complaint and how many didn’t?
When it comes to the scammers, some are easy and cheap, you’d recognise their motive as soon as they call to tell you that you have won a certain amount of money, but you need to send them something small at first.
One woman called me once, said I had won 600,000 Uganda shillings, but I had to load airtime of 4000 Ug shillings on her number, then I would have access. Now that was fake. That for sure wouldn’t be the network’s fault.
But things like hacking into a private account which is supposed to be secure, not nice at all. For some networks like MTN, even cryptocurrencies investment is possible. But if mobile money is hacked, then how am I supposed to think my bitcoin trading is going to be? My gut feeling and reasoning tells me these people just don’t care. These mobile networks are already making an overload of profits that they don’t care about the minority who are the victims of these hacks… It why when you file your concern, it doesn’t matter to them!
This is not a problem only in Uganda. It’s a problem all over Africa! Do something about it or much as you are at the top now, the world is quickly evolving and new innovators from around the globe are just around the corner and on your heels. They’ll out-compete you real quick and soon, we shall be using their services/ apps, which are already operating anyway in west, south, and even eastern Africa. So while you fail to address our concerns, we will be happy to leave and not use
From all the reports and news, (See case study here) the mobile networks know the who, why, how and when fraudsters and scammers use the opportunity to get into their systems and deprive not only the customers on millions of money but also the companies themselves lose billions. Note that However small his or her amount, a customer’s money doesn’t need to disappear in this manner. We go through a lot to earn our coins. Before long, you might have to establish a refund programme for these victims. Think about it. You know the nitty-gritty. Why don’t you solve the problem?
I will be back!
Read a few articles on how Institutions are making an effort to curb cyber crimes