In virtually every street corner, there’s that man or woman with an umbrella offering quick fix sim registration services. These street vendors or agents have become the go-to place for Nigerians with need to resolve common issues with their SIMs – registration, swap, upgrade.
And over the years, there have been reports of fraudulent activities done on people’s bank accounts as a result of SIM registration/swap by these agents.
Case in point: a few days ago, a mobile money agent, Bimbo Cash (on Twitter), took to her page to recount how she was duped off N120,000 after a customer used her PoS outlet to withdraw the sum of N160,000.
He had transferred N100,000 to her from a GTbank account, then the other N60,000 from a Sterling account in batches of N20,000 each. However, there was no alert for the last two N20,000 transfers so he was only remitted the N120,000 that was confirmed. He reportedly promised to come back for the balance once it was verified.
The last two transactions were later verified but all efforts to reach him proved abortive. This development was, according to her, reported at a nearby police station. But days later, her account was flagged by her bank for an illegal transaction. The bank’s reason? An unauthorised transfer had occurred at her outlet and the owner of the account was seeking a refund.
Apparently, her customer had stolen the bank and card details of the account holder when she had visited a roadside vendor to upgrade her sim. The defrauded account holder is said to have identified him as one of the people at the outlet after being shown a picture of him.
Bimbo’s mobile banking outlet has a policy of taking pictures of customers who withdraw cash above N50,000.
This explains why he was not bothered about leaving his balance with her – probably wanting to leave before he was discovered. So, Bimbo was asked to return the N160,000, but she had the unclaimed N40,000 with her. So she lost N120,000 and, of course, her profit on the transaction, N600.
All efforts to apprehend him have been impossible too as the police claim they can’t find him with only his picture. MTN will refrain from tracking him with his phone number except ordered to do so by the owner of the account whose details were stolen.
Bimbo is just one of many victims
The issue of pre-registered and improperly-registered SIM cards being used to defraud bank customers has been going on for a while. Various fraud cases have been reported over the years, with fraudsters manipulating victims’ SIMs to get their bank details.
There are many reasons for the rise of this kind of fraud. Sometimes, victims are unsuspecting users who get improperly registered SIM cards. There are also users who become victims of a SIM Swap fraud and are swindled off their money because their mobile numbers are directly linked to their bank accounts.
Patronising roadside vendors only amplifies these risks. For one, most roadside sim spots are always crowded, and it is difficult to tell who is authorised or not. Hence, handing out your personal details puts your SIM at risk.
Problems like this, of course, show that there is need for a revision of the whole process which is something the Nigerian Communications Commission has been working on with the telecoms operators.
There’s also a need for telcos to directly sensitise their registration agents and dealers as they are the closest to helping people resolve their issues.
Hopefully, in the near future, people like Bimbo won’t have to be paying for what they know nothing about.
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