22 May 2018

Tanzania: Caution As Mobile Money Theft Rises

Dar es Salaam — Mobile money users should think twice before deciding to send cash to numbers or names that they are not familiar with.

The caution comes following reports of a wave of mobile money thefts as fraudsters come up with new ways of extracting money from users. There has been widespread complaints that the fraudsters send short messages to selected numbers, providing numbers purported to belong to a mobile money agent and request their targets to send money, citing various reasons.

"Send me some money via 0767432449 because mine is unavailable. It is urgent," this is a message that a Dar es Salaam resident, Mr Aziz Jabil, received.

He got the text in the morning after speaking with his brother who studies in Tanga a day before, where he agreed to send some cash to him.

"I talked to my brother during the night and he asked me to send him cash using his Airtel Money number, but the next morning I received an SMS, directing me to send the money to a new Vodacom number," he said.

Mr Jabil trusted the fraudster and sent the cash (he did not mention the amount) believing that, the money could reach his brother.

He tried to call the number a few minutes later after sending the money, but the number was not available. "My brother confirmed to me that he did not receive the money and that he wasn't the one who sent the text message. Thereafter, I realised that I was conned," he explained.

Mr Jabil is not alone, there are hundreds of mobile phone users who receive such messages daily. Some have been defrauded of plenty of money while others choose to ignore them.

Ms Anastazia Muhumi, a resident of Katavi, could have been in the growing list of conned mobile money users has she not called her mother.

"I promised to send some cash to my mother, but after seven hours I got such a text. I decided to call her to confirm and I realised that it was one of the conmen trying to steal from her," she said.

Nonetheless, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) and all mobile network operators advised all users to exercise caution before sending money to new numbers.

u She added: "I think the people in mobile networks are involved in such dirty games, because who would know my number shortly after promising to send money to someone."

On the other hand, mobile phone network companies say that they are not involved and they can do nothing about the stealing style.

The Public Relation Manager of Aitel Tanzania Mr Jackson Mmbando said the cases should be reported to Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) and police.

"What we can do, is to create public awareness to our customers that they have to ignore SMS from the people they are not familiar with," he said.

However, other network companies including Tigo and Vodacom did want to commend on the saga when asked through the telephone.

On his part, the Acting Public Manager for TCRA has distanced away from the dealing with the stealing, saying that they have no legal jurisdiction to handle it.

"This is cybercrime case, which has to be handled by police force and not TCRA," he said.

However, TCRA can work together with police to track the number and name of the conman and arrest them.

"We have been giving assistance to the police when the case is emerged, but we have no power to deal with those conmen," he said.

Again, the Spokesperson of the Police force Mr Barnabas Mwakalukwa said that, most of people who are conned are not reporting their cases to police.

"We are providing our phone numbers and other means of communication to the people but they are not do so. They just complain in media," he said.

According to him, if the victim reports the case, police force works together with network companies and TCRA to make sure conmen are arrested.

He therefore, asked other institutions, including reliogions, schools and mobile money operators to create public awareness to people.

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