Here is why scammers of mobile money are thriving

Dear Editor,

Numerous unsuspecting mobile money account holders continue to be swindled with impunity by, seemingly, people very familiar with the system.

When one reports suspected fraudulent activities on mobile money accounts, they are subjected to a very frustrating procedure that renders whistle blowing a waste of time.

It is this very fact that encourages fraudsters to do it again and again, knowing too well no one is after them until, maybe, after a tedious procedure.

I have, in the last few days, been a victim whose MTN account was unsuccessfully raided by these scammers.

Despite the fact that I provided Customer service with the name of purported agency from where and when suspects tried to steal the money, nothing much was done because, according to customer care, the information was inadequate as messages that popped up did not show the phone number, to track down the thieves.

I was assured though that the money was safe as long as the Personal Identification Number was not revealed. Last year, I narrated an incident in the Times of Zambia which I partially reproduce below:

“Friday 2nd August 2019 was like any other day. It was warm and windy in Chingola…

At 13:47 hours I received this important call from a purported Zamtel representative calling from the ‘Showgrounds’. He was using +260 953 748 179, a Zamtel registered number.  His first question, in a smooth, perfect baritone voice with polished English was whether the network reception was clear where I was.

‘Yes, I can get you clearly,’ I answered.

‘That is good then. Where are you?’ he asked.

‘In Chingola.’

‘For how long have you been a subscriber to Zamtel?’ he asked as I thought about when I first bought a Zamtel mobile phone.

‘Can’t say exactly, but I’ve been your subscriber for a long time,’ I said.

‘Well, I’m happy to inform you that Zamtel is running a promotion to reward its loyal customers. And your number was randomly picked. You are a lucky winner of a Plasma television, a DSTV decoder with six months full subscription. In addition, you will receive a Zamtel branded T-shirt and Cap.

This will be given to you on Monday 5th August 2019 and the handover ceremony will be beamed live on ZNBC television,’ He said as I thanked him incessantly.

Then came a kicker:

‘In addition, you have won ten-thousand-kwacha cash which will be deposited into your mobile account immediately,’ the caller said with maximum confidence. I was by now doubting the legitimacy of this call. I knew I was clearly about to be trapped by a schemer.

From my marketing experience, you cannot give one winner so many prizes. What about others? To make matters worse, this was merely a random selection of a number! I also thought, my usage of the same number has not been as frequent as a year or so before.

I fidgeted to try and record the conversation. Unfortunately, I pressed the end call button, ‘in excitement!’ Our conversation had lasted three minutes and thirty-five seconds.

I asked my son how to catch this liar and he told me to call the call center by dialing 111. Before I could press the number 1 even once, my man was back on the line at 13:50 hours. This time with an increased sense of urgency to deposit my K10,000.00 into my account.

‘Do you have Zangena account?’ he asked.

‘No,’ I said.

Before I could say any more thing, he was pressing for other mobile accounts.

‘Yes, I have MTN and AIRTEL’, I said.

‘What’s your MTN number?’ he asked. I played along and gave him my number. And then…!

‘How much money do you have in this account, and is the sim in the same handset you are using now?’ he asked.

Why the hell should I tell him the balance in my phone if only what he wants to do is to bank what he has in there? What about the question of sim cards being in the same handset?

‘I have K190.00 or so in that account but it’s in a different phone at my office. If you deposit the money now, I will surely find it,’ I lied to him.

‘Since it is a cross-network transfer, we can only do it when you have the phone housing your MTN sim card with your mobile account details,’ he said.  I ended the call and immediately called Zamtel call center at 13:56 hours

The agent at Zamtel quickly picked my call and I narrated to him my discussion with the caller. He told me, just as I expected, that there was no such a raffle draw or promotion going on anywhere. The guy was a fraudster. The agent also told me that he was immediately giving the number to ZICTA for action.

I then called MTN call center just to make sure my number was safe. The Agent was equally efficient in handling my call, though he kept referring to me as Mr. Phiri (even when I told him my better name from a civilized clan) and gave me the call center number for ZICTA so I can report directly.

I tried, unsuccessfully, three times to dial 7070, ZICTA call center number. On my fourth attempt at 14:27, I got through to ZICTA. A lady assured me they would get in touch with Zamtel who will report the matter to police. Hmm- ZICTA-to- ZAMTEL- to- POLICE- to- MAGISTRATE’S COURT- to- a sleeping SCAMMER! (Just thinking about how many would be conned by the time the guy is stopped…)’

On Monday 1st June 2020, I received, a now familiar call, asking exactly the same questions (meaning the guys are still operating freely) and reported the number 0967 069 330 to MTN Customer service.

A day before, I reported a purported Agent Hamangaba Monga unsuccessfully initiating several transactions on my account to both Chingola Central police and MTN Customer Care.

When I was told of the procedure to be taken, I realized this scam will be with us for some time!  It seems it’s another cancer that will leave a trail of disaster before the cure is found.

Kunda Londa



Alice Nachilembe

Alice Nachilembe is a Journalist who yearns for a better country with leaders being accountable to their mandate without oppressing the governed.

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