Amid a rise in cases of SIM swap (SIM replacement) fraud that has seen Kenyans’ mobile money and bank accounts alike wiped clean, and a class-action lawsuit filed against Safaricom, the telco has teamed up with banks to unveil a new solution.
The API-based SIM-Swap-check offers banks a free monthly quota of checks and a premium tier for extra checks above the free quota, to verify SIM swaps. The Application Programming Interface (API) allows banks through to query when a customer’s SIM card was last replaced.
This information is expected to support banks to take action against fraudulent transactions.
Acknowledging the rise in fraud, Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa stated: “The rapid growth of Kenya’s fintech sector has been accompanied by a rapidly evolving threat environment targeting both customers and fintech operators. It is therefore necessary for different players to partner around innovations that protect customers and their funds to safeguard the gains made.”
“At Safaricom, we have developed SIM-Swap-Check and ATM Vicinity Check solutions that we have made available to banks to empower them to reduce fraudulent transactions.”
SIM Swap Fraud is one of many mobile money-based frauds that have grown rampant in recent years. It enables scammers to access not just mobile money accounts such as M-Pesa, but also different digital banking and lending apps.
Businessman Abdi Zeila filed a class action suit against Safaricom and the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) over alleged fraud in October last year, opening the door for other victims of Sim swap fraud to lay out their grievances as they seek to have the telco held liable for the losses.
One such case that caught Kenyans’ attention was that of Peter Mwanzo, the police officer in charge of Kasarani police division, who told a court how he lost nearly Ksh600,000 within six hours to a SIM swap syndicate.
“Within less than six hours Sh597,100 had been transferred from my Equity Bank account to my M-Pesa account and later sent to a number unknown to me and withdrawn in Mulot, Bomet County.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 this happened is still a mystery to me,” he stated.
With support from the Criminal intelligence Unit and interrogation of Safaricom staff, he established that his Sim card been swapped.
“Someone used my Sim card remotely. This is madness and it seemed easy for the third party to use my Sim card,” he testified.