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Phone cash scams that leave clients penniless

Police are investigating phone scams as city conmen devise new ways to remotely clean out unsuspecting customers’ accounts.

The conmen are using SMS and codes, and pose as customer care officials from leading service providers.

“They are using technical ways to defraud people,” said Nairobi County Deputy Police boss Moses Ombati.

He suspected that the scam was being perpetrated by former money transfer staff who were dismissed by the mobile firms.

“The people involved have money transfer experience. After they were dismissed, they use the same experience to defraud unsuspecting customers,” said Ombati.

Duped

They have lied to clients that they have won money and even warned them against sharing their PIN as an assurance.

The unsuspecting customers were then duped into entering their PIN codes ‘to check’ if they had received the money.

This is after they were asked to dial 5555555 to have the money transferred to their accounts.

Apparently, the conmen and women send a secret password to a customer’s phone with a code named ‘Equity Bank’ which they tell them to use.

It is suspected that customers enter the password that gives the fraudsters access to their accounts and can withdraw money remotely through ATMs.

Responding to the allegations Safaricom said, “We continuously work with our regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya, Central Bank of Kenya and law enforcement agencies to profile and investigate M-Pesa fraud.”

The company said fraudsters had tricked unsuspecting customers into divulging their ATM withdrawal codes making them susceptible to being conned.

“The fraudsters thereafter withdrew money as long as they had the code and the mobile number. This is a social engineering scheme and is not associated with any system weakness or hacking,” said Maryann Michuki, a communications official at Safaricom.

Mr Ben Sifuna was conned out of Sh10, 000 by fraudsters.

“Police at Kilimani police station filed a report indicating that money had been withdrawn from an unknown ATM.”

Ms Elizabeth Wambua was also conned through the same scam. She realised later when she went to withdraw money.

Mr Ombati said registration of all SIM cards can help trace fraudsters and reduce such cases since they always destroy the SIM cards after committing the offence.

He said service providers should establish reasons why a person has more than one line or changes them from time to time.