SIM swap fraud and Safaricom new antifraud solution
This is how SIM swap fraud happens. You are seated somewhere probably having a nice chat with friends or playing about with your phone when suddenly network connectivity disappears. Your first reaction is to move around raising your hand here and there and when that fails, you switch your phone off and on, and there you have it: SIM card registration failed!
Then you call your phone company via a different line to explain your situation furiously. The lady on the other end tells you ‘you’ just did a SIM card replacement after ‘you’ claimed your line or phone got lost. Reality dawns on you. Someone has swapped your SIM card without your knowledge, and you are no longer in control.
How SIM card fraud is possible and what you stand to lose
There are a few eventualities that make SIM card fraud possible:
- You have lost your identification cards and someone has them, plus your phone number. In Kenya you can always do SIM card swap at a vendor. The vendor may not be keen to verify whether the face on the ID is the same as that of the carrier of the documents.
- Sometimes unscrupulous bank and phone company employees may snoop on your data and work in cahoots with criminals to make a SIM swap of your line.
- Someone may access or hack into your email account which is in most connected to your transaction portals. Also when you lose your phone, most probably entry into your Gmail account is a free pass.
- Once the person has access to the most crucial details like your phone number and ID documents, they go ahead to make a SIM card swap and steal your identity. That means they have ability to set new passwords, order for change of your old passwords, and access your One Time Passwords which are verifiable via codes sent to the phone number which they now possess.
- The identity thieves will now steal your money from mobile wallets and bank accounts, probably borrow loans from your MShwari and other mobile loans apps, and if you do not take fast prohibitory steps, they will keep on nicking money from your bank account every day because of the daily withdrawal limits which makes it hard to withdraw large amounts in just a day.
- By the time you realise you have been robbed, it is probably too late.
How to avoid SIM swap fraud
- How do you avoid this kind of robbery? Avoid sharing much data online.
- Treat any connectivity issue with SIM card as an emergency. Immediately call the Customer Care of your phone company and ask them to lock your accounts and not to allow any kind of transactions, including SIM swapping.
- If you have lost your identification documents and phone, report to the authorities, including the police, your bank and your phone company. They will advise what precautions to take and how to go about everything.
- Do not give personal details to random callers who pretend to be calling from your bank or phone company. Such callers will usually claim they are verifying your information and need your confirmation, then without knowing, you give them the right information to ‘correct’ the wrong information. The following point is important in connection to this.
- When a criminal has all your documents which you lost, they just need your password. They will impersonate a bank officer or phone company employee, give you all the information which is correct because they have it; and then ask you to verify your passwords by responding to a few questions or send it to a number they give you. So smooth!
What Safaricom has done to tame SIM swap fraud
Safaricom has now launched an anti-fraud intelligence solution to alert financial sector stakeholders about possible fraudulent activities. The telco said it used to receive about 100 – 200 SIM swap fraud cases every month in 2018. This is how the new Safaricom antifraud solution works:
- The solution will mainly be used by financial service providers. These include banks, micro-finance institutions and all digital financial services firms.
- Since most people are doing mobile banking, any SIM swap activity will be monitored.
- Banks will send automatic notifications to Safaricom to verify on a real-time basis the SIM status of any customer attempting mobile banking or Internet transactions.
- If no SIM swap request has been made, then the process will flow easily. The bank will decide to complete the transaction.
- However, if the notification returns a report of a recent SIM swap, the bank will decide whether to stop the transaction until everything has been verified. This may include contacting the customer to verify further details before completing the transaction, but the decision will solely be made by the financial institution.