MyJoyOnline.com

Mobile money fraud: MTN wards off accusation of insider role

Mobile telecommunication giant, MTN, has refuted claims that workers in the organisation are responsible for the fraud perpetrated on its mobile money account holders.

General Manager in charge of Mobile Financial Service at MTN, Eli Hene, told Super Morning Show host Kojo Yankson that although the mobile operator acknowledges the existence of the problem, they expect users of the service to act with caution, when giving out details of their mobile money accounts to third parties.

Several subscribers of MTN have reported the increasing activity of fraudsters who steal monies from their accounts after giving out their account details to persons who call their lines purporting to be from the offices of MTN and requesting customer details.

Many of the unsuspecting customers, who fell victim to this scam, narrated their ordeal on the Super Morning Show Tuesday.

A media communications professional, Veronica Owusu-Ansah said one of two persons she had transferred money to lost GH¢1,000 soon after she transacted the business through a vendor at East Legon, a suburb of Accra.

“I got a call from the first guy I sent GH¢1,000 to and he said someone called him claiming to be an MTN mobile money merchant with the number ‘0550354712’ to say a lady came to East Legon to deposit money into his wallet.

"But due to a few issues which were being corrected, he would have to hold on for a while before he could receive the money in full," he said.

Veronica Owusu-Ansah

“I quickly decided to drive back to the merchant to find out what was going on only for the second guy I sent money to, to call me with a similar story. Then the vendor, Pithias Astugah called the MTN office to find out if the money was actually deposited into the mobile wallets of the two individuals and they confirmed YES, which means the first guy I sent GHȻ1,000 to, had his money withdrawn from his account in a fraudulent way.

"That was when I realized there was a sham going on. Luckily for the second guy, he did not follow the steps the unknown caller asked him to take so his money was safe in his mobile wallet,” she recounted.

Gloria Acquah received a call on October 17, from someone who claimed to be calling from the telco’s head office at Ridge in Accra, and by the time she noticed, she had lost about GHȻ700 her husband had transferred into her mobile number account three days earlier.

A lot of the callers into the programme including some vendors, also shared similar stories.

Responding to these, Mr Hene empathised with the victims but refuted the claim that the crime was being pulled off with the help of some MTN staff.

Defending the network provider, Mr. Hene strongly stated, “We accept the problems that are with the service but we have taken steps to prevent fraud.

“We have put in systems that block fraud messages from coming to our customers. There are issues on the ground…but it’s a two-way interaction; we [network service provider] do our part and you also do your part."

Desmond Israel 

However, Privacy and Information Security Architect, Desmond Israel said it was improper for the telco to push the responsibility of securing accounts solely on the consumer, especially when the thieves succeed in their operations based on the information provided by MTN which is then used by the clients.

Mr Israel said perhaps “it’s because the attack hasn’t gone to the service provider,” warning that the attackers could soon target the vaults of the network providers if steps are not taken to mitigate the crime.

“Once we achieve interoperability, the attackers will start going after the service providers; they are going to come after you,” he warned.

Cybercrime Cost

About 18 people fall victim to cybercrime every second around the world, “resulting in more than 1.5 million cybercrime victims each day on a global level,” the Norton Cybercrime Report (NCR) revealed.

In Ghana, about 50% of mobile phone subscribers experienced fraud or have been a target, according to the Director in charge of the Cyber Crime Unit of the Ghana Police Service, Chief Superintendent Dr. Herbert Gustave Yankson.

According to Eric Addo-Mensah, Chief Operating Officer of Midas Insurance Brokers, Ghana lost funds around the region of $63 million between January and December 2016 to mobile money fraud.