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 the other is within the public domain and you’ll soon see how and why. Fasten your seat belt; it’s about to be quite a ride.
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5 Ways Mobile Money fraudsters operate
The first step towards executing a successful scam is to know basic details about the intended victim in order to carry on a conversation good 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 is a mainstream app that most people use in verifying 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 definitely technology savvy enough to know how to run a number through the app in order to be sure of which names to use when an intended victim responds to their ‘handshake’.
Pretending to send money
I’d like to assume that you (the reader) are aware of 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 Truecaller app says about you. Now let’s move on to the how they get your number in the first place.
At a Mobile Money agent’s stall
MTN Mobile Money fraudsters can get your number from MoMo agents. However, it is not necessarily what you may be thinking of; that it was a deliberate collaboration between the two. There are two possibilities that could come into play in this scenario.
Often, when you go to make a deposit or cashout at the MoMo agent’s stall, you have to mention out 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 too.
Consider the possibility that while you’re calling out the number for the agent’s benefit, someone close by is also listening — and either memorizing the number or recording it secretly.
Also, assuming you are making a deposit into another person’s account, you’ll have to read out the MoMo number as well as 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.
Some Mobile Money agents don’t require you to mention out your digits to them. They provide strips of paper for you to write down the numbers on. That aside, they have daily sales log books 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 happen to be an entrepreneur or someone who does business in some form, chances are that you may have shared you contact details somewhere online; either in a comment section or on a business flier. Mobile Money fraudsters are never far away. Whenever your number is on a flyer or a billboard, you are out there in the open.
Also, some artisans such as mechanics like to scribble client numbers on walls of their garages. It wouldn’t be far-fetching 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 to 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 just so they can have a ready database.
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 situations such as this. The best you can do is to be smart enough not to be taken advantage of.
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This story is part of a series JBKlutse.com is developing to educate the public about Mobile Money fraudsters, their activities, and how to stay vigilant and not be a victim.