UGANDA: Police probing MTN mobile money fraud

By Christine Kasemiire

Kampala. Police is investigating circumstances under which accounts of a number of MTN mobile money subscribers have been wiped clean in a suspected syndicate.
In a statement published at the weekend, MTN said the company’s attention had been drawn to complaints in which a number of customers had had their money fraudulently withdrawn without their consent by a suspected syndicate.

“Some questionable individuals have been obtaining PIN numbers from our customers under false pretence and subsequently withdrawing funds from their mobile money accounts,” the statement, which did not indicate whether MTN was investigating the matter, reads in part. 
Mr Val Okecho, the MTN communications manager, told Daily Monitor at the weekend that the telecom was aware of the problem with at least eight cases already registered. 
However, he said, without giving more details that, there could be more victims of the syndicate.

At the weekend, Mr Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, said the fraud, which police are investigating, had been reported and a number of cases had been transferred to CID for further management. 
However, he could not reveal the extent of the fraud and the money involved, saying millions have been lost in the syndicate, which they suspect to be the work of information technology (IT) experts. 
“This is a syndicate by information technology experts. They are the ones who normally know how to manipulate these things [PIN numbers],” he said.

A number of complaints, according to Mr Onyango, have been filed with subscribers claiming that some people withdraw money from their accounts without their consent. 
Last week, NTV reported that a number of mobile money users were being robbed without getting remedy. NTV noted that attempts for some of the victims to recover their money had been futile with neither police nor the telecoms helping much. 
However, Mr Onyango said they are investigating the cases and “we are making a break through.”

Growing industry 
The 2018 GSMA State of Industry report indicates that more than 143 million subscribers are using mobile money. 
According to Uganda Communications Commission, in 2018 mobile money subscribers increased by 5 per cent in the third quarter of September 2018 to make 23.9m subscribers. 
The report indicates that MTN and Airtel dominate the industry with a 90 per cent market share shared between the two.