Mobile Money fraud on the MTN network is so rampant it can be likened to a virus sweeping through a community. Every user has either had an encounter with the fraudsters or knows someone who did. In all this, some concerns have been raised by MTN Mobile Money (MoMo) subscribers over time. Some of the concerns involve the questions

  • How do they get our numbers?
  • How do they know that we are registered for MoMo? and
  • How did they even get to know our names?

These are the questions we’re going to attempt to provide answers to — with the intention of making you consider the various possibilities that can come into play before you become a target for the Mobile Money fraud operatives.

Related: Does MTN deserve the blame for Mobile Money Fraud?

How Mobile Money fraudsters get your user information including phone number

In a recently published article on the issue of MoMo fraud, responses from some readers clearly showed that quite a lot of people cannot imagine how someone could easily get the phone number tied to their telco e-wallet. Some were of the view that it can only happen with some collaboration from the service providers — which is wrong, anyway.
Here we’ll take a look at some possible ways by which the MoMo fraudsters get hold of your wallet phone number.

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Scenario #1: Guesswork

Sounds strange and may be complicated for some to imagine, but it’s not. Just consider it in this manner. My MTN phone number is 054x xxx 793. All I’ll need to do is drop the last digit of my number and replace it with either 2, or 4, making it 054x xxx 792/4. That’s how easy it is for the better than average Mobile Money fraud operative to get your phone number without having to make a request from the network or steal it from anyone.
They just need to continue with the guesswork and they’ll soon have a database of valid numbers to play with.

Scenario #2: At a Mobile Money agent’s stall

No. It’s not what you’re probably thinking. There are two possibilities that could come into play in this scenario.

Possibility #1

Many a time when you go to make a deposit or withdrawal at an 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 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. That is the first scenario.

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Possibility #2

Some agents don’t require you to mention your digits to them. They have strips of paper for you to write the numbers on. That aside, they have daily sales logbooks with all transactions recorded.
Most of the time, these logbooks are 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 involved in the business of Mobile Money fraud.

Scenario #3: Conversations

This may not seem that much of a big deal, but there are loud talkers and there are eavesdroppers too. Some people are so loud on the phone — while in public — that you can literally guess what the conversation is about if you’re savvy enough.

During conversations, people may 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 about 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.
Now we’ve learned about how they get our numbers, let’s address the second concern; how they get to know our names to make their scams seem legitimate.

Scenario #4: Sending money

Do you remember what happens anytime you send money through any of your mobile money wallets? At the final dialogue screen, the network sends you something like “Send GHS100 to Kwesi Mensa. Reference: Coins?”
Well, that is one way they get to know your name. They only need to pretend to send you money and once you’re registered on the Mobile Money platform, your name, as it is in MTN’s system, would show up for them.

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Scenario #5: Truecaller

Truecaller is an app that lots of people use to verify who may be trying to reach out to them before picking up the call. Some of the Mobile Money fraud operatives most definitely would know how to run a number through the app in order to verify someone’s name.

To conclude

We don’t live in bubbles. At some point, people would come across our contact and personal details. 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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