Friday, December 04, 2009

Identity Theft; Buyer Beware

The runaway success of the M-PESA money transfer product of Safaricom has brought to Kenya what has hitherto been a story only heard of in the developed economies. That of theft of identity. Right now con men and women have decided to go a notch higher and have abandoned their infamous but highly successful fraud call telling you that you have won 300,000 shillings in some fictitious tambua ushinde promotion. (even though you never participated) Right now, they simply steal your identity. Most victims are being called and asked to give away their information like PIN number, frequently called numbers, and even M-PESA balance. How it works is that these guys most times stand over your shoulder when you are either depositing or registering and note the number, ID etc of either you or the person you are sending to. They then call you up pretending to be calling from Safaricom. Of course when someone calls you by your full names, gives you the exact time you made a transaction plus your national ID, you are bound to trust him when he tells you that he needs your PIN to be able to fix an issue with your transaction. When you do that he simply swaps off your simcard and takes over your phone and therefore your account.

And they are becoming more and more aggressive and heartless. Last Monday I got a call from one such fraudster who told me that a relative of mine had been involved in an accident near Nakuru and needed urgent help. He said that he needed airtime urgently to make calls. He wanted it quickly since he was on his way to the hospital with the said relative. The man was not giving me time to ask questions. only saying 'wewe unanisumbua na maswali na mtu wenu amepata ajali mbaya'. The rain only started beating his plan with me when I failed to place the name of the person in question and again when he said they were in the same private vehicle from Eldoret. They were only the two of them, yet he could not describe the said patient!

Bottom line things are bad, fraudsters are sharper, and you just need to learn to fly without perching