Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

17 February 2013

Tanzania: Rural Banks Will Stop ATM Theft

THE introduction of Automated Money Transfer (ATM) is aimed to ease financial transaction by serving time that would have been wasted from the long queues to reach the teller or accessing your bank account any time especially when the official bank hours have elapsed.

In fact ATMs have made life easier for many people. But this scientific advancement is posing a serious challenge to both financial institutions and their customers. For the latest development indicate that the increasing ATM thefts in several banks in the country have cost them big amounts of money to compensate their customers whose monies have been stolen through the scam.

The banks have not come into open to state how much they had dished out as compensation but our sources have revealed that the amount count could reach 800m/- has been given out in a span of one year. Many of the victims of this scam are the salaried and the business people.

The problem arises when this hard earned cash is taken away easily by the unscrupulous people. The police force have done a commendable job in investigating the ATM thefts and categorized the victims. The police investigations have revealed that teachers, for sure from the rural areas, have fallen victim to this scam.

The reason, according to police investigations, is that they have tendency of dispatching representatives mostly their relatives to withdraw money after their salaries have been credited in their accounts. According to the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Ahmed Msangi, who is the Zonal Crime Officer in Dar es Salaam's Special Zone, investigations have revealed that most victims are robbed by their own family members because of their access to victims' ATM accounts' passwords.

We are also aware that the teachers had to do this because of the transport costs and considering their meagre salaries they have to raise fare enough only for one representative and which is done on rotational basis. Of course they had to be aware that the person sent to collect salaries on their behalf is one of their own who can not let them down.

Again we are made to understand that several teachers form groups, document their account numbers and passwords on note books as well as the amount of money each teacher would wish to withdraw. Their representatives also take several days in respective towns before returning to rural areas.

If the representatives decide to tell their colleagues that they had been robbed of the money or lost note books bearing account numbers with passwords. This is very dangerous but circumstances force them to take the risks. The challenges facing teachers are known but their lives are becoming more complicated for reasons that are not of their making.

Of course there are standing instructions that people should not reveal passwords of the bank account numbers to anyone but we should also put ourselves into the shoes of teachers located in rural areas where social services are non-existent.

It is our hope that concerted efforts must be done to improve the social services in the rural areas, including locating bank services closer and within reach by everyone, including the teachers who have been identified in the police investigations as major victims of ATM thefts.

The Central Bank, on the other hand, must be in a position to advice the local financial institutions to open more branches in rural areas instead of the present setup in which many of these institutions are concentrated in urban areas.

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