Mulot could refer to any one of three small towns on the border of Bomet and Narok counties – Mulot Central, Mulot Olomirani and Mulot Sunset. In recent years, Mulot has gone from simply another backwater town to a place beloved by notorious swindlers running sophisticated, hi-tech scams.
Mulot’s economy is largely driven by trade and agriculture. Perhaps it is the cover a sleepy, small town like Mulot offers scammers that draws them compared to the glitz and glam of other places unfortunately associated with scammers – such as Nairobi’s Kilimani area.
The town is home to many fraudsters mostly running mobile money scams, including SIM SWAP fraud. SIM SWAP fraud is a form of identity fraud in which scammers replace and take over the customer’s phone line enabling them to access mobile money and banking wallets among other sensitive information.
“Fraudsters go to the extent of registering an existing number on a new SIM card in order to intercept notifications, one-time passwords, online banking profile and transactions as well as changing the account security settings,” Safaricom explains on its website.
“To avoid this disastrous activity, it is key to ensure your SIM card has an active SIM lock, use strong passwords and keep personal information off social media,” the telco warns.
The rise of mobile money fraud has been so meteoric that it caught the attention of President Uhuru Kenyatta – who in June 2022 ordered the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to take action to protect Kenyans against the scammers.
“A new wave of crime is equally emerging that involves things like Sim swapping and the typical ‘tuma kwa hii namba’ syndicate, all of which we must deal with properly,” the President stated while commissioning the new DCI National Forensic Laboratory in June.
Reports indicate that numerous scammers call Mulot home. A quick spot-check by Business Today of DCI announcements reveals at least four major fraud cases involving Mulot over the past three years.
In 2019, the DCI christened 7 alleged scammers as ‘The Mulot Team’ after a bust over alleged mobile money fraud. The bust saw 200 SIM Cards, numerous mobile phones and several mobile-money agent registers also confiscated. Interestingly, all suspects were aged between 22 and 28 highlighting the involvement of young people in many of the alleged scams.
“The (Mulot) team also defrauds unsuspecting citizens through M-Shwari, Withdrawals, Fake M-Pesa Reversal Claims & M-Pesa Con SMS,” the DCI alleged.
The most recent SIM SWAP case to grab Kenyans’ attention also thrust Mulot back into the limelight. It shocked many as it saw a senior police officer lose Ksh597,000 in May.
Peter Mwanzo, then Kasarani OCPD, couldn’t believe it when he found his bank account and mobile money accounts emptied. Although the scammers were based in Nairobi, the funds were withdrawn in Mulot in four tranches.
“Within less than 6 hours Ksh597,100 had been transferred from my Equity Bank account to my M-Pesa account and later sent to a number unknown to me and withdrawn in Mulot, Bomet County. How it happened is still a mystery to me,” said Mwanzo.
He explained how he got numerous phone calls one evening and put the phone on flight mode at 6:45pm. He turned off flight mode at 6.50pm and found that his phone couldn’t connect to the network. The next day, he replaced his line and upon reactivating it started receiving a flood of M-Pesa notification messages.
He later attempted to send money and surprisingly found that he had exceeded the limit as he realized that he had lost Ksh600,000 withdrawn from his Equity Bank account.