MPESA Fraudsters are not targeting the heart

MPESA fraudsters have tried a number of ways to defraud Kenyans of their hard earned cash, using different social engineering methods. The most common is the method that almost got me four years ago. In this method, an MPESA conman sends a text message to unsuspecting MPESA user with these words, “tuma kwa hii number 07xx xxx xxx. Ile number ingine ikona shida”. This almost got me because a few minutes earlier a friend had asked me to send MPESA to his friend called Dennis, and the con also signed off his name as Dennis. Thank God I first decided to call Dennis, my friend’s friend, to ask if he had sent the previous message, as neither the number that sent the next nor the the number provided matched with the number I was given as the number belonging to Dennis.

MPESA fraudsters also use a form of brute force method. In this method and through lost IDs and social engineering tricks, the MPESA fraudsters gather enough information to swap SIM cards, and after they have managed to swap the SIM cards, mostly by help of Safaricom employees and in some cases the police too, they are able to withdraw whatever amount of money is in the SIM card, or call/text friends of the person the number belongs to and ask them to send more money to that number. Back in 2011 my mother was robbed shs 20,000 through this method, but for her case it was an MPESA agent who decided to swap her SIM card. The MPESA agent had told my mother that she was out of cash and asked my mother to leave her with both phone and MPESA PINs, so that immediately she got the cash she could withdraw for her. The agent went ahead to use the PIN information to swap my mother’s SIM card and withdraw the money on the secondary SIM card. The swapping part, done at a different location, was done so that she could use the excuse that someone else had hacked my mother’s sim card.

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The other methods MPESA fraudsters have tried to use include using alluring messages such as promising love (I am Lorreen from Canada currently based in Lodwar, and I am looking for a 32 year old man to fall in love with) or promises for job offers. Others send shipment information to the “wrong number”, then use the text to try get some money for bribing custom officers … and the tricks are endless.

As Kenyans become more aware of their con tactics the MPESA fraudsters are using, the MPESA fraudsters come up with new methods, with the most recent being their ability to target the heart. This they do by appealing to sympathy and empathy. Yesterday I received a message from a lady who purported that we have known each other to the extent of being good friends. She first apologized for being lost, then went straight to asking if I could help her with shs 1,500. When I looked at her WhatsApp pictures however, she appeared as one of those FWB type of females you’d find in places like tinder and tagged whose sole intention is to charge a man more than shs 3K for five minutes of pleasure. There is no way I was going to send money to such a person. I ignored her message but she continued to plead for help until I blocked her.

This morning I have received a message from another stranger who identified herself as Lilian, a Dr. Lilian who attended to me in an hospital a few years ago. According to her, she banks on the chance that me having been her patient sometime in the past, I would sympathize to her fundraising drive to save her sick mother. She explicitly needs shs 700 towards that fundraising, and really wants me to be sympathetic and human towards the sick mother.

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Strangely, a few years ago when I visited a local private clinic I was attended to by a female doctor. I don’t remember however if her name was Lilian. The name of the hospital where I was treated sounds similar to the name of the hospital Lilian has provided, but the spelling are worlds apart – meaning that whoever is sending the message as Lilian is doing guesswork. True caller has identified her as Director Mc’amolloh.

The problem with these two MPESA fraudsters is the feeling they live in me … the feeling of “what if they are genuine?”


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Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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