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Is Safaricom’s rising insider frauds a war targeting changing-of-the-guard?

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(Sylvia Mulinge and Michael Joseph at a past event. Photo courtesy)

It’s deeply shocking that the Safaricom’s rising insider frauds is happening at a time the company is preparing to receive it’s new CEO. Could these be internal wars emanating from forces opposed to the new CEO, the Starehe Boys Alumnus Peter Ndegwa?

Leadership Wrangles?

Most of these incidences a section of Safaricom subscribers are currently facing were not there before the interim CEO, Michael Joseph, took over in July last year after the death of long-time head Bob Collymore

Kenyans still recall with nostalgia how Safaricom welcomed Peter Ndegwa with all arms, “We are confident that Peter will carry on our vision of transforming lives while keeping us focused on meeting our customers’ needs and holding us to being simple, transparent and honest,” said Safaricom chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a in a statement yesterday.

Adding, “Peter brings a wealth of experience in general management, commercial and business strategy, sales and finance operations, having spent over 25 years in various roles within the Financial Services and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods sectors in Africa and Europe.”

It’s easy to point fingers at individuals since some of the tactics they used to replace Bob were too obvious.

You will recall how the likes of Sylvia Mulinge, now a powerful senior manager, decided to use bloggers and a marketing firm to propel her chances in the social media. Those familiar with her dealings claimed that she adopted technology to promote the hash tag #sylviamulinge as she was in charge of marketing(Chief customer officer). This was after she (Sylvia) realised that she was the least preferred for the top job by the Safaricom board even though the late Bob preferred her. A source familiar with the happenings at Safaricom plc before the death of Collymore was heard saying that, Bob preferred Sylvia because “they allegedly did some shoddy deals together because she made so many mistakes but was never fired.. Like 50 times combined what others did.”

For the public, the race for Bob’s replacement is over since the new CEO had been appointed and named but there could be more than meet the eye.

According to sources, Sylvia Mulinge is allegedly the current most powerful manager at Safaricom. She is also said to have inherited most of Bob’s roles. She also inherited the hawk-eyed security details of Bob, the “men in black” version of security. You can’t access her “even if who you are”.

Insider Fraud

It was not until late 2018 that I learnt that when you send money to a wrong number or got defrauded, conned and reported your case to Safaricom’s 456 number, the message to reverse the money would first be sent to the recipient of the wrong transaction asking him or her to send back the money. That could be why thousands of Safaricom customers have been defrauded their hard earned money.

“Dear customer, we have received a reversal request of Kshs.xxxx sent by xxxx xxxx for xxxx. To accept forward this SMS to 456 or pick the call from 0722000000 to decline.”

So when a Safaricom’s customer is conned a particular sum of money, it will be at the mercies of the thief to approve the reversal of the money lost.

I don’t know how many people lose phones in Nairobi city everyday but what I observed in October last year was that in less than 15min at Safaricom shop Moi avenue about 30 people trooped in to block, swap or replace their SIM cards. Their reasons being their phones had been stolen. The same could be true with the millions being conned everyday as Safaricom watches. Remember, Safaricom has over 31.8 million subscribers, a good percentage of whom are conned everyday yet the company would comfortably do nothing.

It took the DCI in a statement dated November 19 last year to caution the general public against “engaging in online transactions with companies, agencies and/or Individuals they have no credible information about, to avoid putting at stake their hard-earned money.” This is after overwhelming reports of online fraud were reported to DCI offices across the country.

Fast forward, on Monday this week several Safaricom subsribers raised complaints with Safaricom PLC on social media over attempts by fraudsters to con them of funds from their mobile accounts using the company’s official customer care number.

The hundreds of subscribers received voice calls through the Safaricom’s official number 0722 000 000 , with the callers claiming to be customer care agents from Safaricom, and even confirming personal details such as M-Pesa transaction history.

“I got a call from this number 0722 000 000, an outright conman trying to extort info from me about my M-Pesa, Mshwari and KCB M-Pesa. Is it your staff are now calling using that number or who because I think this is your official number?” asked one subscriber identified as Steve Muiruri on Safaricom’s customer care Twitter account.

The same incident happened to Carton Baraza.

Some subscribers are suspecting the Safaricom fraud team as the ones defrauding Kenyans,

“I think this Safaricom fraud team is also a fraud. Out of the many complaints, has your team ever secured a conviction?”

“Do you think the Safaricom data bundles heist and airtime were not insider’s job?” A source paused.

Another user identified as Njeri Mukuria asked how a caller had access to her personal details, including date of birth, place of residence, the details of the last three M-Pesa transactions, log-in details such as PIN and PUK numbers, as well as information on their mother.

“We are following your issue. No stone will remain unturned. Let us jealously protect our personal details, if in doubt we are here to confirm. Thanks for keeping us posted, it helps us keep all transactions on our platform safe.” read Safaricom’s response.

At the pick of these fraud incidences, Safaricom has removed the direct calls to their customer care services amongst the options when you dial 100. The service had saved millions of their subscribers from fraud. Today when you want to reach their customers you must be a Facebook or Twitter user to inbox them with your issues. If it’s fraud, for example, how long will you wait? How about the analogue subscribers?

It’s evident that Safaricom aids fraud. Recently one of their subscribers warned another on their social media pages that, “Don’t ask safaricom for help. When you do and reply to them they block you and don’t answer your messages on twitter and Facebook inbox! That’s how disgusting their Customer care is, and yet they make big talks on honest and transparency. All for the show and no action! Shame on safaricom!”

These incidences confirms that Safaricom has exposed its subscribers to fraudsters who are now operating from inside the compamy. There is no safety of the subscribers’ personal data particularly on the M-Pesa platform. How safe are subscribers if fraudsters can make calls through the company’s official line?

Can one be wrong to conclude that the several outages experienced on the Mpesa network last year had something to do with insider jobs?

Safaricom in other words is telling its subscribers that even if we defraud you, you will do nothing as there are no direct calls to customer care and some of these fraud cases are now coming directly from their official lines.

Endless complaints, no solutions

The number of complaints raised majorly on social by several Safaricom subscribers on how their personal details and those of millions of subscribers are always leaked to third parties have increased and there is nothing substantial the company is doing about it confirming that some disgruntle forces are behind these issues.

Just months to the New CEO Peter Ndegwa’s official take-over, Safaricom Plc seem not to care about their man made Service outages that sometimes last for over 12hours yet such outages interferes with millions of subscribers.

Some of their shops such as Eastleigh branch is not properly managed in addition to their unoperating computers. Does Safaricom even care? Are senior managers out to sabotage the incoming CEO?

No penalty

The regulator, communication Authority of Kenya, is permitted by law to sanction any telecommunications company that inconveniences customers through service interruptions as a result of omission on their part. The law provides that an operator in breach be fined up to 0.2 percent of the firm’s revenues, which could run into hundreds of millions.

However, nothing has been done to Safaricom’s service outages witnessed after July last year. Remember, Safaricom’s Mpesa platform handled a total of 649.3 million transactions valued at Sh1.7 trillion in three months to June 2019, showing its growing significance to the economy. But this is one of the services that was interrupted for more than 12hours.

Over the week Safaricom lost its bid to block sections of the competition law that demand the firm reveal secret supplier deals to the market watchdog, will this be the end of top Safaricom managers’ corrupt deals?

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