By Duncan Mlanjira
People are warning each other on social media that there is a syndicate of fraudsters who are swindling people through mobile money digital system and it is suspected the culprits operate within prison walls.
According to sources that Nyasa Times has talked to, the crooks are very cunning in that they call when least expected, saying they were calling from TNM or Airtel for Know Your Customer (KYC) updates and they ask people to open their Mpamba, Airtel Money and National Bank accounts and enter their pin codes for the caller to properly identify the authenticity of the owner in their data base.
“The moment one gives the pin code by inserting it on the open Airtel Money or Mpamba account on their phone, the crooks immediately transfer all your money to the phone they are using and quickly proceeds to transfer it further into another Mpamba or Airtel Money account,” said our source.
Our sources within Airtel, however say the Airtel Money number that the money is being used as conduit can’t traced.
Further investigation reveal that one of the number being used, 0883033593 indicates that it belongs to Innocent Banda and had the SIM card registered at Manje in Soche but the national ID he used to register the SIM card belongs to Joseph Thomas.
When googled, it shows that Joseph Thomas’ national ID is reported missing at National Registration Bureau.
A source within TNM says the SIM card that is being used was bought as recently as October 20 and another source who was swindled told us she was robbed of K16,000 on October 22.
Another source said: “I received a foreigner number, 07060714545 telling me that he is doing some registration online and he mistakenly put a number on what he was registering.
“He told me that my number is similar to his number and that the password of what he was registering was sent to my phone which I actually saw as 6310.
“He was now appealing to me to give him the reset code that was sent to my phone so that he could finish his registration. I told him to call me with the number he claimed was similar to mine so that I could verify his claim but he told me he didn’t have enough credit in that line.
“I got online to find out more, only to discover he was actually trying to reset my bank online and Yahoomail password and that he is a fraudster, an account hacker.
“If I had given him the code which was sent to my phone, he would have used it to reset my bank online/mobile app account.
“Please let us be careful and vigilant. Fraudsters are devising new ways every day. This is a new way of defrauding people,” said the source on a social media post.
When contacted, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) Director General, Godfrey Itaye said they will investigate how the numbers were being registered and asks victims to always report matter to the police to initiate investigation.
“Encourage them to report to police for professional investigation to bring the culprits to book. I am sure the victims can benefit by following up with the police,” said Itaye, who also referred this reporter to his Head of Consumer Affairs Thoko Chimbe.
Chimbe confirmed that MACRA has encountered and has been aware of occurence of such cases both before as well as after the SIM registration process.
“The police have on a number of occassions apprehended the culprits and indeed most of them are already prison convicts and they have even apprehended prison warders who have also been involved.
“Normally such fraud cases are still police matters. MACRA’s role was to mandate the SIM registration to assist in resolution of such cases.
“In this case, MARCA will take up the matter with the operators where the registration process is suspect. Please provide more details on the particulars of the incidences in question including the victims and the details of what happened and when.”
Chimbe assured the public that they will be conducting an awareness programme on the matter on various radio stations in collaboration with the Police, operators, the Reserve Bank, and CFTC among others.
He added that MACRA will greatly appreciate any input on the matter from the public.
Other people are also alerting the public that whenever they go to photocopy their National ID and the machine operator tells them that the copy was poorly copied and has to be redone, they should ask to collect that bad copy from him.
They are alleging that some operators sell out these copies to thieves, who use them to acquire SIM cards and commit crimes that can incriminate innocent people.
Commenting on a Facebook post, Harry Chimenya confirmed receiving a call on 0883033593 and that at first, he thought it was genuine call until the caller started asking about how much balance he had in his Mpamba account.
Others suspect that the fraudsters might at some point been TNM or Airtel employees.