A police boss in Nairobi is the latest victim of a sim-swap fraud syndicate that has been using technology to con Kenyans of their money held in banks and telecommunication firms.
Mr Peter Mwanzo, in charge of Kasarani police division, yesterday narrated in court how he lost Sh600,000 within six hours through the syndicate.
“Within less than six hours Sh597,100 had been transferred from my Equity Bank account to my M-Pesa account and later sent to a number unknown to me and withdrawn in Mulot, Bomet County. How this happened is still a mystery to me,” said Mr Wanzo.
While testifying before magistrate Mary Mwendwa at a court in Milimani, Mr Mwanzo narrated how he fell prey to the syndicate on the night of January 4.
He said the fraud scheme started by receiving a phone call from a private number. He did not pick but the caller continued calling, prompting the police boss to put his phone on flight mode. This was at 6.45pm.
Upon deactivating the flight mode at 6.50pm, his mobile phone failed to pick the signal. He was still in office.
“I rechecked at 9pm and still the mobile phone had no network,” Mr Mwanzo told the court. He was testifying against Mr Gideon Mark, a suspected fraudster.
Mr Mwanzo added that following the frustration over lack of network, the following day he visited a Safaricom shop within Kasarani area. An attendant informed him that his Sim card had failed and was advised to do a replacement for the same.
“She (the attendant) could not tell how I lost the Sim card but I did the replacement and it was reactivated. Upon turning on my phone I was surprised by the messages that started coming in. I tried to purchase airtime and send money but the transaction failed and got a message that I had exceeded my limits,” the senior officer told the court.
“I was shocked that I had even registered a Fuliza account and Airtel Money. I had never applied for any loan or registered with Airtel,” said Mr Mwanzo adding that he does not know how and where the fraudsters obtained his private information to enable the bank transactions.
The officer sought his M-Pesa and bank account statements to confirm the alleged transactions.
“To my surprise, on that night, I had transacted from Equity Bank account to M-Pesa Sh597,100,” he said. The statements showed that the money was transferred in four tranches. He said while the scammers were in Donholm, Nairobi, the money siphoned from his account was withdrawn in Bomet by a third party simultaneously.
Through the help of Criminal intelligence Unit and interrogation of Safaricom staff, he learned that his Sim card been swapped.
“Someone used my Sim card remotely. This is madness and it seemed easy for the third party to use my Sim card,” he testified.
He urged the court to order for the refund of the money and the telecommunication firm to take responsibility for the fraud, for keeping a system that can easily be manipulated and abused by criminals.
The court has summoned Equity Bank, Safaricom and Airtel legal teams to testify in the matter
The hearing will continue on June 29.