“I kwendad and then I kujad” …the day I learned how to never get played on my phone

It was a cool Saturday afternoon and I had just completed the warm routine of walking home my beautiful girlfriend, Ciru. She always insisted that quality time is everything so we had to create moments. It included accompanying her to the gate of her apartment in Kileleshwa. A short distance from town in my eyes so I didn’t mind. Besides, I’m a little stingy so saving some money rather than getting her a cab is a good thing for my M-Pesa balance.

Wearing my sporty earphones, I took the zebra crossing into Arboretum drive and arrived at the pavement with music blaring in my ears. “Kuduff… Ting-Tingy-Tingy-Tarang-Tara … Kakuduf” I noded to the funky tune. Mentally, I started dancing like the days when we would rock the dance-floor and rule with our dancing shoes. I was in such a swinging mood.

Presently, my phone rang. It was a number I thought I knew. Swiped to receive and the authoritative voice caught my attention.

“Hello hujambo! Mimi ninaitwa Maxwell na ninakupigia hapa kutoka Safaricom Customer Care. Ninaongea na Omulokoli, tafadhali?”

“Ndio!”, I replied. “Feel free to speak English and call me Omu. Kanairo nu jamo buda boss!”

“Aaah! Thank you Omu. It is a pleasure to talk.” he reverted, knowing that he had stricken a chord with me now that I’d volunteered my nickname.

“Mr Omu”, he continued, “As I mentioned, I am calling you from Safaricom Customer Care. The reason why I’m calling is because we are trying to sort out an erroneous transaction on your Safaricom line. I believe you are an honest gentleman, aren’t you?”

“Yes I am, Maxwell.” I replied confidently. “I am a good Kenyan citizen and I am a big believer in the convenience of M-Pesa sir. How can I be of service?”

“Mr. Omu, I believe you have seen a text message from Mpesa, yes?” he asked.

I took a step beside the footpath to look into my phone and saw an SMS notification which I had somewhat missed. Opening the message, it read that I had received I sh.5,500/=.

“Waaah!” I exclaimed, “Kwani kunaendaje…”

“No need to panic Mr. Omu.” he quickly intercepted. “That money belongs to a lady who is in distress and as you have said, you are an honest Kenyan. She has sent it to you by mistake and she needs it back. These things happen. You are aware of that, aren’t you?” he asked.

“No problem. Anything you need!” I replied.

“Thank you very much Omu.” replied Maxwell. “Do you think you can send it to her immediately?

“Sure!” I retorted. As soon as I finish this call, I will send it to her.”

“You, sir, are a fine gentleman, I must say. More Kenyans should be just like you.” he responded.

I was flattered. Almost as much as when Ciru complemented my haircut today. The smile that was presently on my face was wider than my facemask.

“Alright thanks. I’ll send the money right away!” I replied

“Good on you! Thank you Mr. Omu and have a good day from all of us here at Safaricom!” he said as he finished and hang up.

I joyfully stood by the roadside and sent the money to the number. With a jolt, I slid the phone back into my pocket and started again on the walk. Arboretum drive was strangely buzzing with vehicles for a Saturday afternoon.

Getting to View Park towers just off University way, my girl Ciru called just to check up on me to find out where I had reached.

“I’m alright babes.” I bragged, “Si I told you how I like to save money. That 400 shillings I would have used to Kileleshwa and then South B doesn’t make sense.” I continued

“By the way my dear, I have just helped someone in distress. Customer Care at Safaricom called me and told me to help them send money back to someone who had sent it to me by mistake. How cool is that?” I said to her

“That’s nice. Have you confirmed the transaction is done?” she asked

I yanked out my phone from the pocket and unlocked the screen and got in to the inbox. Studying my M-Pesa messages, I saw that I had sent sh5,500/= to a person called Makini Makonde. Shock!

I also noticed that the message of me receiving the initial sh5,500/= wasn’t on M-Pesa. Swiped back in to my inbox and saw that message exists, yet it had come from a different number.

“Honey, are you there? You’re silent?” asked Ciru

I had just been conned. My M-Pesa balance was now sh.104.35

“I’ve been conned” I spoke back into the microphone

“Are you joking?” she inquired

“Noo …like for real. I have just been conned!” I answered. “I was blinded. My goodness!!!”

“Well, Safaricom only calls you from 0722 000000. Was that the number?” she asked

Checking my call log, I saw that it definitely wasn’t that number and more so, the prefix was not Safaricom.

How could I have been so careless. It then hit me. The gentleman had struck a cord with me and I got foolishly persuaded. He got me to send M-Pesa to that number in the guise of helping a distraught lady. He was not from Safaricom.

I hadn’t paid attention. I became quickly angry at myself. Countless emotions ran through my mind, the heaviest being an overwhelming embarrassment.

“My dear. What you can do immediately is to report. Send that number to 333 and then follow up with a call to Safaricom Customer care.” Ciru advised.

“For now, I’ll send you 400 shillings so that you can take a cab home.” she joked, caringly.

My day was ruined and my lesson was heavy. I reported that number to Safaricom just as Ciru had advised. Of course I tried calling the number but it was off. I sent the message to 456 in order to reverse the M-Pesa transaction. Yes, sh.5,500/= is not pocket change plus I knew Ciru would ask for a refund …hahahaa!

Anyway, from that day, I resolved to let as many people as possible to know that they must stay alert and keep vigil.

Never give out your personal details or your PIN. Safaricom will never ask you for that. If you receive a fraudulent call, hang up and report that number to 333.

If someone ever claims to have sent you M-Pesa erroneously, ask the sender to forward the M-Pesa message to 456 to complete a reversal request or to call 100 for assistance.

Hopefully, none of you will ever fall victim to fraudsters. This is my true story. If you ever have fallen to these tricks, I wonder what’s your story?

Pin Yako, Siri Yako!
Pin Yako, Siri Yako!

Mpesa Fraud: Protect yourself from conmen who pose as Safaricom staff

It was a Saturday morning, a day after the new year and Joseph Mburu was relaxing in his house. At around 8 am, he got a call from someone who claimed he was a Safaricom Customer care staff. Mburu who hails from Eastlands told us that the caller, a male staff notified him that his line had had double registration and they were trying to sort out the issue.

“Aliniambia eti line yangu imeregistiwa mara mbili, kwa njina langu na mtu anaitwa Esther Njeri. So akasema ndio laini yangu isifungwe, anahitaji kuniuliza masawali kadhaa,” Mburu said.

(He told me that my line had been registered twice on my name and a user called Esther Njeri. So for my line not to be locked, he said he would ask me some questions to verify the line really belongs to me).

Mburu said the caller asked him to state the last amount of top-up he had done and the last two numbers he had dialled which he did. He was then directed to M-Pesa details and without knowing, he revealed his details thinking the caller was a Safaricom staff. Some minutes later, he got a notification that his Sh15,000 had been withdrawn.

“I was shocked and in fact, I thought I was dreaming. It later hit me that I had been duped. I tried to reach out to Safaricom for help but it was too late,” he said.

Grace Lumbasi, a wife and a mother to teenage girls told us that through similar tricks, her entire saving was withdrawn. She said on Sunday, January 3 she was relaxing in her room because she was feeling unwell.

“I was sleeping after I took medication until my last born daughter woke me that I had a call. When I answered, the caller, a man told me that my M-Pesa had been blocked because my line had some complications,” Lumbasi said.

According to her, the caller notified her that she would not be able to do any M-Pesa transactions unless the issue is sorted out.

“Since I was feeling unwell, I did not even think through, Immediately asked him how they could help since I was convinced that he was a Safaricom Staff. He asked me some lead questions which I responded to” she said.

A few minutes later, she was shocked to get a notification that her M-Pesa balance was zero.

“I have never been duped like this, I almost fainted. I had sacrificed a lot despite the coronavirus pandemic to save something to help me in this year, then just in minutes someone walks away with it,” she said.

She said she had saved some Sh55,000 and she intended to use part of the money to pay school fees for her kids while the remaining to buy a cow.

“I have always wanted to own a cow and I knew my dream was coming true, now I don’t know where to start,” she said.

Mburu and Lumbasi are among many other Kenyans who have fallen victims to such tricks costing them fortunes. We have established that the conmen have devised ways in which they lure unsuspecting targets. Fraudsters are always devising new ways to con people. Since it is hard for scammers to infiltrate the M-Pesa system, they opt for non-technical methods, or social engineering, as it is popularly known. This involves tricking unsuspecting people into breaking normal security procedures and finally manipulating them into among other things, revealing M-Pesa PIN or withdrawing from ATMs remotely.

Precautions to take

Safaricom has come up with a few very simple rules and measures to ensure that your phone and more importantly, the information on your phone remains safe. Firstly, when it comes to your MPESA, the only person who should know your pin is you. Never tell it to anyone else, including anyone who claims to be from Safaricom. Pin Yako, Siri Yako!

If you do receive these fraudulent calls about your M-Pesa transactions, tell the person to contact Safaricom to reverse the transaction or to forward the MPESA message to 456 to reverse. If you suspect them to be a fraudster, immediately report their number by sending it in a text message to 333. Reporting these numbers helps ensure that they are investigated and blocked.

Safaricom will never ask you to share your passwords, whether it’s for your MPESA, bank or Sim. If they do, this is most definitely a scam and you can report the number and get it blocked. #JichanueAndTakeControl