How mobile money fraudsters operate: 5 things to know

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how to spot a fraudster

There are three questions often asked by people who have fallen victim to MTN Mobile Money fraudsters. These three are

  • How did they know my name?
  •  How did they know I was registered?
  •  How did they get hold of my number?

Even if you’ve never fallen victim to them, you may find yourself asking the same questions because it always seems too calculated to simply be a coincidence that the Mobile Money fraudsters know the exact number you registered your MTN MoMo wallet to.

It will interest you, however, to know that they don’t really need to go to great lengths to know the above details about a potential victim, or anyone for that matter. Technology these days has made it easy to access any information that, in one way or another, is within the public domain, and you’ll soon see how and why. Please fasten your seat belt; it’s about to be quite a ride.

5 Ways Mobile Money fraudsters operate

The first step towards executing a successful scam is knowing basic details about the intended victim to carry on a conversation well enough to avoid being exposed as a fraudster. And here is how they find the necessary details to kick off the scam. We’ll first address how they get your name.

Truecaller App

Truecaller is a mainstream app that most people use to verify who may have been trying to reach them; before they would return missed calls or pick such calls in the first place. And some of these Mobile Money fraudsters are technology savvy enough to know how to run a number through the app to be sure of which names to use when an intended victim responds to their ‘handshake’.

Pretending to send money

I want to assume that you (the reader) know the dialogues that take place during a Mobile Money transaction. During the verification (or authentication) process, do you remember coming across something like “Send GHS100 to Ghanaman Mensa. Reference: Small Coins?” Yes!

That is also another way you can get to know someone’s name; and for the Mobile Money fraudsters, they only need to pretend to send you money, and once you’re registered on the Mobile Money platform, your name would show up for them — just as it is in the MTN Mobile Money system.

So those are the two methods employed in finding your name; either by using exactly what you’re registered with on the network or by going with what the Truecaller app says about you. Now let’s move on to how they get your number in the first place.

At a mobile money agent’s stall

mobile money agents stall
(Image credit: JB Klutse / JBKlutse Foundation)

MTN Mobile Money fraudsters can get your number from MoMo agents. However, it is not necessarily what you may be thinking of; it was a deliberate collaboration between the two. There are two possibilities that could come into play in this scenario.

First possibility

When you go to make a deposit or cash out at the MoMo agent’s stall, you have to mention the digits of your phone number to the agent handling your transaction. A lot of these times, you aren’t alone; there are likely to be others waiting for their turn to make deposits or withdrawals.

Consider the possibility that while you’re calling out the number for the agent’s benefit, someone close by is also listening — either memorizing the number or recording it secretly.

Also, assuming you are depositing into another person’s account, you’ll have to read out the MoMo number and confirm the name of the person you are sending money to. In that event, you are providing whoever is listening with both the recipient’s name and number; two birds with one stone.

Second possibility

Some Mobile Money agents don’t require you to mention your digits to them. They provide strips of paper for you to write down the numbers on. That aside, they have daily sales logbooks where all transactions are recorded.

These log books are usually not kept under lock and key. And even if they are, they pass through quite a number of ‘official’ hands during the day. Anyone could easily chance on that book, take a picture of the pages with the list of numbers, and give it out to their counterparts who may be Mobile Money fraudsters.

Business fliers, billboards, and wall scribbling

If you are an entrepreneur or someone who does business in some form, you may have shared your contact details online, either in a comment section or on a business flier. Mobile Money fraudsters are never far away. You are out there in the open whenever your number is on a flyer or billboard.

Also, some artisans, such as mechanics, like to scribble client numbers on the walls of their garages. It would be reasonable to assume that someone with a cool SUV would have plenty of funds in their Mobile Money wallet. Some of the boys who frequent garages to idle around or while away the time are Mobile Money fraudsters, and when they get hold of the number of such a high-value client scribbled on the walls, you can properly guess what they would be doing with it.


Some people are just too loud, and while this may not seem that much of a big deal, it is important to know that just as there are loud talkers, there are eavesdroppers as well. Some people — while on the phone in public — are so loud that you can literally guess what the conversation is about.

During conversations, people become situationally unaware and give out certain details over the phone; to the hearing of everyone present and within earshot. Now, if you happen to hint at a windfall, while at the same time giving out your MoMo number, chances are that someone may become interested in playing a quick one with you.

Contact list of stolen phones

In a recent article, we learned about how someone became a victim of Mobile Money fraudsters when they texted her with the number of a business partner. It happened because the Mobile Money fraudsters came across conversations she had had with her clients and marked out the ones they could easily defraud of sums of money.

Phone snatchers, burglars, ‘kwashey’ lords… all these miscreants work together with Mobile Money fraudsters, and it won’t be off the mark to suggest they steal phones so that they can have a ready database.

In conclusion

This is real life, and we don’t live in bubbles. At some point, people would come across our contact and personal details. This is unavoidable, especially if you do business. While certain situations may be attributed to service providers, some cannot, as it’s based on sheer ingenuity on the part of the scammers.

It may seem a surprise for some, but in the era of technology, you aren’t shielded from such situations. The best you can do is to be smart enough not to be taken advantage of.

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