It started as something you’d joke about due to the perpetrators’ bad grammar. But over time, the mobile money fraud issue has become a pain to MTN mobile money subscribers.

There’s nothing more annoying than having your day interrupted by some amateur wannabe fraudsters with the audacity to give you a call; either claiming you owe them some money for a wrongful transfer of funds, or that you’ve won some fantastic prize somewhere — and then going ahead to demand that you first deposit some money with them in order to unlock your winnings.

This has become a daily occurrence for a number of years now, and rather than it fading out, the perpetrators are developing more sophisticated schemes to scam the unsuspecting or not so savvy subscribers with.

But then, one would ask — with all this happening on the MTN network, would it be fair to say that the service providers are somewhat aware of the identities of some of these fraudsters; but reluctant to take the appropriate action towards prosecuting them? After all, with great power comes greater responsibility, so as MTN Ghana has the greater telecom subscriber base, it is expected to do much to be a safe space for the users who subscribe to their services.

Is MTN complicit in the mobile money fraud nuisance?

In the minds of quite a number of people, MTN Ghana is not innocent when it comes to this whole mobile money fraud issue. Their argument is that subscribers to the other network providers’ e-wallet platforms do not experience this problem with fraudsters. It only ever happens with MTN mobile money.

Related: 10 Years of innovative MTN mobile money

Well, while it is true that only subscribers to MTN mobile money have had encounters with these fraudsters, so far, it doesn’t mean the network providers themselves are directly responsible for their platform becoming a haven for these adventurers. Take the Windows operating system for example.

Almost all Windows users encounter issues with virus infection on their PCs every now and then. It’s not the same with the Linux operating systems [Ubuntu and other variants], and Apple’s Mac OS. Should we then say that Microsoft has a hand in Windows PCs consistently getting infected because of the prevalence of viruses and malware attacks directed toward devices running the operating system? Not at all. That only happens because Windows has the most users in the computer OS market. If I were a malicious hacker, I’d certainly direct my attacks toward the platform that would guarantee me the most casualties — in this case, Windows OS.

So for the network with the largest share in subscribers, nationwide, it shouldn’t be a surprise for them to be bedeviled with serious problems such as the mobile money fraud menace. However, does this absolve MTN Ghana of any wrongdoing or responsibility towards customers? Not at all. In fact, that alone places a lot on the network operator’s doorstep in guaranteeing that its numerous subscribers have a wonderful experience when patronizing any of their services.

Suggestions on the way forward

The service provider

There is a common saying that with great power comes great responsibility. MTN Ghana has the largest share of the cake in regards to mobile telecom network subscription in Ghana. Such is the popularity of MTN Mobile Money (MoMo) that even in the era of mobile money interoperability, lots of people prefer MoMo-to-MoMo transfers, hence, making users of other networks register an account with MTN purely for mobile money transactions.

Now what? The growing insecurity among patrons of MTN’s services in Ghana should give the company genuine cause to be worried. There is an increasing perception among the general population that at least, some staff and agents of MTN Ghana are involved in the mobile money fraud menace — even if the company is not deliberately playing a part in it.

The mobile money fraud nuisance: Does MTN Ghana deserve the blame?
Some customer responses on MTN’s Facebook posts

The confidence with which some of these fraudsters give out agent numbers, expecting funds to be transferred to them should put the company on alert to be monitoring agents’ activities. Also, I’d like to believe that MTN has received customers complaints with the phone numbers used by these fraudsters attached. Is there going to be any blacklisting of such numbers?

Yes, we understand that such fraudsters do not keep the same number after a successful scam, so, how about making the registration of numbers a thing where background checks (place of residence, and next of kin etc.,) are conducted?

Also, how about making sure that once such people are brought to book, they do not get access to mobile money accounts for a number of years after that?

Agents who handle SIM card sales and registration should be empowered to refuse giving out new numbers to people whose faces are known to have owned a number of accounts in the past. At least, if there’s a legitimate reason to own multiple accounts (business accounts, for example), documents must be provided to support the request. MTN should upgrade its systems to be able to automatically detect and flag names that have appeared for more than a decent number of times. It is possible for a corporation the size of MTN Ghana.

The subscriber

For subscribers, it’s just a straightforward thing. Remember how your parents used to caution you to never answer the door in their absence? Yes? It’s the same here.

Whenever you receive calls about transactions and prizes you are unsure about, you either contact MTN to do a background check on them, or ask the complainant to reach out to MTN’s customer care unit for redress. In any case, if their complaint is genuine, no one would be hurt with MTN being the mediator.

In some of the cases, these fraudsters pose as officials of MTN who would have to take you through a process. In the end, you’ll absentmindedly transfer money from your account to their given number before realizing you were scammed. Stay alert. You should always tell any such caller that you’d go to an MTN office to activate whatever process they called you about. Just be smart as a subscriber. Fraudsters thrive on people’s ignorance and gullibility.

In conclusion

MTN mobile money fraud is a thing that we should all be concerned about. The telecommunications service providers must work together to uproot this canker before it becomes a mainstay in the mobile wallet sector. If MTN as a corporation is concerned about its image in the public eye then, it must do the needful to root out what has become a daily experience for too many of its subscribers.

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