Safaricom ‘engineers’ con M-Pesa agents

M-Pesa agents in Kenya’s central region have lost nearly US$13,000 to swindles, after several fraudsters posed as Safaricom engineers to defraud them.

Confirming the incident, Embu West District Security Committee chairman Daniel Obudo said that the conmen, while pretending to be upgrading the system, impersonated Safaricom employees to trick the M-Pesa agents into giving them details about their businesses.

“They then transfer the money in the agent’s accounts into their accounts and withdraw it from other outlets,” he said. “The conmen ask for the agents’ ID number and PIN among other details.”

Obudo asked dealers not to give out their particulars to any strangers, advising them to report such incidences to the police.

It is reported that M-Pesa operators within Embu, part of central Kenya, alone lost KSh1 million (US$11,700) to fraudsters in a month.

In a bid to educate each other on latest fraud trends targeting them, mobile money transfer agents have formed a group, dubbed the Association of Mobile Phone Money Transfer Agents of Kenya (AMPHOTRAK).

The association’s objective is to educate members on the current fraud trends in order to enable the agents to be wary of the scams.

One of the latest fraud trends is fraudulent SMSs confirming withdrawal, where conmen who have the telephone number of the M-Pesa SIM card line and access to the handset save their personal mobile number as “M-Pesa”.

The conmen later ‘withdraw’ by forwarding an SMS withdrawal confirmation to the agent authorising payment. On receiving a message from “M-Pesa”, the agent would be encouraged to think the message had come from Safaricom, therefore transferring money to the fraudster.

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