SIM Swap Fraud Threatens Telcos’ Mobile Money Plan
The rising incidence of Subscribers Identification Module swap fraud in the country has become a major concern for stakeholders in the financial and telecommunication industry.
Telecoms subscribers are also concerned that the same manner in which airtime is lost on the mobile devices will play out when mobile financial services are handled by network operators.
Others who have experienced the fraudulent act alleged that insiders working with telecommunication companies are culpable in the act as network signal suddenly disappears before the victim’s bank account is wiped out.
An engineer based in Lagos, Omoniyi Johnson, was once a victim of SIM swap fraud in which his personal information was used in requesting for a new SIM card by a fraudster.
He said over N200,000 was stolen from his bank account before he realised what happened.
According to him, network signal disappeared from his phone which persisted despite rebooting his mobile device.
“Initially, I thought my phone had developed some fault, but after taking it to technician the following day, it was discovered that my SIM card was faulty. On getting to the operators’ customer care centre, I found out that someone else requested for a new SIM with my number and had stolen my savings,” he explained.
Due to the many complaints of financial fraud from SIM swap, the NCC, in 2017, had introduced new requirements for replacing a lost or damaged SIM card.
The commission asked telecoms operators to request for court affidavit, national identification card, SIM pack among others as new requirements for replacing a lost SIM card.
Despite this intervention, the challenge persists.
The Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, NCC, Mrs. Felicia Onwuegbuchulam, at the inauguration of newly elected executives of Industry Consumer Advisory Forum in December said the commission had received lots of complaints on how fraudsters were using mobile numbers to steal from bank accounts.
She was quoted as saying, “Though the money is not in their custody, we are not exonerating the telecom operators until we conclude our investigations. We believe there may be a connivance of telecom staff in all these crimes. Why should a subscriber’s line go off at the time fraud is about to be committed on their accounts?”
Speaking on the issue, the Managing Director, Upperlink Limited, Segun Akano, advised Nigerians not to entertain any fear that the involvement of telecommunication companies in mobile financial services would increase SIM swap fraud.
According to him, biometrics is an effective way of reducing exposure of customers’ information and curbing financial fraud.
He said, “If mobile money is working elsewhere and we are able to surmount the safety fear, we can as well do it better in Nigeria. I don’t think we should be scared that the fraudsters will take advantage of this. It is just a wakeup call to all the telcos to have their security intact on all their platforms.
“Not only do we have the benefit of Biometrics Verification Number, it is an added advantage for Nigeria when other countries running mobile money right now don’t have the facility that we call BVN.
“It can do a lot to reduce the vulnerability level of our platforms, knowing full well that if anybody does anything and you are caught, the system is closed against you.
“The agency banking is meant to reach the unbanked and all the agencies banking under the SANEF project have access to verify identity through BVN if they want or have a way to verify the identity of customers.”
Already, he said there were measures in place to ensure that transactions on a newly obtained SIM card did not exceed N20,000 on the first day.
He said, “If you transfer N20,000 and by the second day, the owner does not lodge a complaint, you will be allowed to do more, with that the perpetrators will not gain much and they can also be caught. The motivation is not there because they are all being encumbered by the policies.”
Speaking at a stakeholders’ forum on financial fraud in Abuja, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, said the incidence of financial fraud using telecom platforms had become pervasive.
He added that the act had led to direct financial loss in the financial services sector, e-commerce, and telecommunications.
He said, “As a fall out of technological advancement, knowledge has increased and control has become even more complex, creating gaps which are being exploited by miscreants and nefarious individuals always looking to beat the system.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, said discussions were ongoing with the telecoms operators, the Central Bank of Nigeria and other stakeholders to ensure adequate safety measures to protect customers were in place.