UGANDA: MTN blocks mobile money agent lines weeks after hack

MTN has suspended an unknown number mobile money agent lines, with some agents asked to provide documentations to enable an update of their registration status. 

This comes weeks after the telecom giant suffered a security breach, in which systems of a third party service providers - Pegasus - were hacked with hackers robbing billions of shillings in the process. 

Speaking to Daily Monitor, some of the agents, who have suffered the suspension, said they had not been warned of the disconnection, which has held their accounts and money hostage.

One of the agents, who preferred anonymity for fear of being victimised, said her account had been blocked on October 29 with Shs6m.

“I had Shs6m on my account and they blocked it. That day when I tried to transact it failed. I called customer care and they told me to take registration documents of my mobile money business to have it unblocked,” she said, wondering why MTN had not warned them earlier. 

Another agent in Mengo, Kampala, with about Shs500,000 on her account, was locked out of the system and was later asked to take her business registration documents for updating. 

A customer care agent at MTN only know as Doreen, last week confirmed the telecom had blocked some numbers on October 29 in an effort to get them updated. 

“It was on October 29, around after lunch when we blocked [some] lines. You were asked to return to update your registration on some agent numbers. It is all agents. As long as you have not updated your registration, your number has to be among,” she said, saying the updates are necessary for security reasons. 

Ms Rhona Arinaitwe, the MTN spokesperson at the weekend, said the telecom was reviewing the Know Your Customer (KYC) of its mobile money agents and subscribers in accordance with the Financial Intelligence Authority approved standards.

“During the reviews, some customers and agents may for one reason or another be required to enhance and or standardise their KYC to meet the current standard. In this instance, the affected parties are contacted and advised as such,” she said, noting that no customer or agent balances were affected when some accounts were suspended.  

MTN was one of the companies affected by a hack in which hackers accessed Pegasus systems, making off with billions of shillings.

The hack, according to available information, was executed through 2,000 Sim-cards that were alleged smuggled onto telecoms systems. 

It is not clear if the current suspension is connected to the October hacking, in which hackers accessed Pegasus systems to steal money from MTN and Airtel escrow accounts held in Stanbic and Bank of Africa.  

A source close to the matter, without going into details, told Daily Monitor that Pegasus, which handles aggregation of some of the telecom services has since lost some of the services contracted to it while retaining some.