Mobile money is great.
However, MTN Mobile Money is far from great. In fact, it appears to be an endless case of fraud peddling from its mobile money vendors.
It’s strange how we hardly hear of Tigo Cash, Vodafone Cash or Airtel Money fraud cases yet MTN Mobile Money fraud seems to be everywhere (just like their tagline). This is despite the seemingly extensive anti mobile money fraud campaign MTN has rolled out.
MTN, you can do better. Just because your anti mobile money fraud campaign is ‘everywhere’ doesn’t mean it’s working. Miscreants will always adopt new strategies to defraud customers so your campaign needs to keep evolving and remain one step ahead.
So here’s my MTN mobile money fraud experience.
I went to a mobile money vendor /merchant at East Legon to deposit GHS 2,000 into my mobile money wallet in order to send some of it to two people. The merchant, Pithias Astugah tells me he will not deposit it for me because he will not get any commission from it.
First red flag.
Well, I was in a hurry to get the transactions done, so I asked the agent to do it.
(Send the money to my two colleagues through him, the merchant)
Now to ensure the person withdrawing the cash received a round figure, I had to pay extra on the actual amount. So for GHS 500 to the first individual, I sent GHS 510; GHS 1020 instead of GHS 1000 for the second individual and GHS 365 instead of GHS 350 for the last transaction.
Checking with all the other MTN mobile money merchants on that stretch of road, I discovered they all had the same approach as Pithia Astugah which made me wonder how in-touch MTN is with the activities of their vendors on the ground.
I called the two individuals in front of the merchant to be sure they received the money and they confirmed that they had. But a few minutes after I left the scene and got to my office (which is also located in East Legon), I got a call from the first guy I sent GHS 1000 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 in to 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.
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. I told the second guy not to take any action until I reached the vendor. When I got to the vendor he vehemently denied knowing anything about the call.
Pithias Astugah then calls 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 GHS 1000 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.
I asked myself several questions:
- I also deposited money into my mobile money account so why was I not called by the fraudster?
- Why did the caller find it necessary to describe me and the place I did the transaction?
- Why did all this take place less than 5 minutes after the deposit took place?
Arguing with the vendor proved to be useless so I decided to report the issue to the East Legon Police Station and upon his arrest, found out that:
1. The merchant has had series of very similar cases in the past
2. The boss of that merchant is a full time worker at MTN Ghana (Head Office, to be precise) and deals in the supply of SIMs. (The Police visited the home the vendors’ boss and indeed saw a lot of SIMS. I can authoritatively confirm)
When I called MTN about the issue, the info was shared with the MTN Fraud Team via email and I was kept in copy. I also found out that the SIM used by the merchant is a ‘directional SIM’, something I did not really understand, until I probed and discovered it basically means a SIM that has not been registered in the system.
I contacted NCA about the directional SIM and a staff of the regulating body told me it’s simply a case of SIM BOX FRAUD and per laid out regulations, the operator, MTN is supposed to follow through and resolve my case.
It’s been more than 2 weeks now.
Has MTN taken any action on my case?
Well I suspect it’s because the mobile money merchant has the help of an insider from MTN (which explains why he has managed to survive this long even after several fraud complaints).
I speak for hundreds whose voices cannot be heard or perhaps have no network to channel this to. All they can do is to keep mute and suffer this unfortunate treat from MTN.
And oh the saddest part is when asked why MTN and not the others and the response is they are the biggest…. Really? So sad!
Why do we keep using MTN when there’s Vodafone Cash, Airtel Money and Tigo Cash? Especially when the instances of fraud with these other services seem to be far lower than MTN Mobile Money?
Does MTN have any form of compensation for customers who lose money due to fraudulent activities? Or a dry apology is all they get? Will MTN finally sit up if they finally start losing money?
How quickly and efficiently is MTN updating customers on the various strategies used by fraudsters? Is the MTN fraud alert campaign having the kind of impact it should have?
My message to MTN is,
- If your campaign strategy is not working change it.
- Will paying each defrauded be a better way? Maybe the regulator should look at that.
- Sanitize the system – most of your fraudulent merchants are working with inside help from MTN staff.
- Scrap vendors who have had a series of fraudulent complaints levied against them by customers.
- MTN, I need my money back!