23 May 2012

Rwanda: Beware of Mobile-Money Fraud

Reports that users of mobile money services are prone to fraud calls for more vigilance.

Mobile money services were introduced in Rwanda in 2010 when the country's largest telecom operator by market share, MTN Rwanda, launched a platform dubbed "MTN Mobile Money".

Last year, TIGO Rwanda launched a similar product -"TIGO Cash". Both platforms initially allowed phone users to transfer and receive money using their handsets.

Since then, mobile financial services have been upgraded with features allowing subscribers to access their bank accounts on the go while offering flexibility to settle electricity and water bills using mobile phones. The more advanced and popular it becomes the riskier it gets.

There is no doubt that the service is demystifying the way financial transactions are being carried out. Thousands of Rwandans use it as an alternative to conventional banking because it is cheap, quick and convenient.

Most of these customers are now prey to fraudsters after telecom regulator, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) and operators revealed that mobile money fraud is on the rise in the country.

Conmen are increasingly stealing pin numbers of clients and also use swapped SIM cards to call friends of the culprit requesting them to send money on accounts of stolen mobile phones. This calls for awareness campaigns and tighter legislation from responsible institutions, RURA and the central bank.

But consumers have a bigger role to play here. They must remain vigilant by guarding their pin numbers, not giving out their account details and always reporting suspicious messages to police and mobile operators.

It requires collective efforts to combat such crimes.

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