On the 30th January, 2019, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) released photos of 130 suspects that are wanted by the police in connection to electronic fraud which include hacking into banks and stealing money.
Electronic fraud isn’t new in Kenya, but it is sure rising in terms of the amounts stolen as years go by. In 2013, a report by Deloitte East Africa stated that Kenyan bank and insurers lost Kes. 3.8 billion to fraudsters. As of 2017, this figure has since risen to over 21 billion compounded losses for the entire financial industry including banks, telcos, and e-commerce platforms; financial institution were the most affected.
All these reports put blame squarely on bank and telco staff that collude with fraudsters by circumventing internal controls to steal clients ‘money.
The editor of this blog received an exclusive account of how this fraud is undertaken. Below is the story of how a Bank of Africa (BOA) client lost money.
“It was on Thursday, 7th February, 2019 last week at exactly 06:45 p.m. when I receive a SMS notification from BOA that I have sent Kes. 43,000 to 0759155818, a number I don’t know and without me initiating any transaction. A minute later, I received another notification that I have transferred Kes. 1200 to another telephone number 0797108423
I suspected something was fishy, so I immediately called BOA Customer Care number 0703058120 at 06:47 p.m. and informed them that I had not initiated any transaction yet my money has been transacted. While I was on phone with the customer care person, another text notification came in that I had transferred Kes. 800 to the same number that had received Kes. 1200.
The customer care guy told me he has seen the transactions and if I was not the one who initiated them; they will handle the matter and refund my money totalling to Kes. 45,000.
The next day, on Friday, I reported the matter to my local branch in Bungoma. The manager was not in but I was attended to by one S. Otieno. Mr. Otieno told me first to write a letter authorizing them to reset my mobile banking platform and change my PIN, which I did. They gave me a copy of the letter as they retained the original. They informed me that they’ll get in touch with the BOA headquarters and thus will get back to me on Monday 11th February, 2019.
I was not satisfied by this response, so I logged into my email, so as to get contacts from the bank emails that BOA normally sends me. I got contacts of a Mr. Solomon Owino, the customer care manager for Bungoma Branch. I called the number but I was redirected to Kisumu Branch, where I asked to speak to Solomon but I was told that he was not in at the moment. The lady from the other end of the phone told me that they can assist and urged me to narrate what had happened. She asked for my account number, she logged in and acknowledged that indeed my case is true; transactions had happened. She promises to inform Solomon when he comes so that he can handle my case. A few hours later that day, I received a call from Solomon, who told me to be patient as my case was under investigation.
The next day, on Saturday, I made several calls to the BOA Headquarters customer care number. I was told that my matter was still under investigation. I then called Solomon from Kisumu branch and he said he had forwarded my issue to the headquarters and that he can only give me a response on Monday 11th February, 2019.
When I called Solomon on Monday, he was rude. He blamed me for what had happened. He also stated that BOA has never been hacked and that my case is very isolated. He advised that I should seek support from the security agencies since BOA doesn’t have investigative capabilities. His explanation and the way he talked to me, angered me.
I then decided to go straight to Bungoma Police Station to report the matter. I reported the issue under OB Number 76/11/02/2019 and was directed to DCI offices. At the DCI office, after listening to my issue, the officer asked me to bring my bank statement so that they can investigate further. Since it was late in the evening and banks had closed, I promised to do so the next day.
I went to the bank on Tuesday to print my statement. At the bank I met the branch manager whom I explained my issue to. The branch manager also made a call to BOA headquarters. He asked me to be patient as the ‘matter is being investigated’’. He went on to say that if the fault was on their part and their systems they will refund but if not, the liability is on me.
He authorizes printing of my statement at my cost since my account had been wiped clean on Thursday. I parted with Kes. 600. When I looked at the statement, I discovered three more transactions that I hadn’t made and hadn’t received notifications for. There were three more transaction of Kes. 400 and 300 respectively recorded as MB Funds TRSF and the third one of Kes. 6. My account balance is now at Kes. 0.61 beyond even the allowed withdrawal limit allowed by BOA.
The matter is at DCI, the officer-in-charge promised to call me after talking to the Branch Manager.
I have engaged BOA on Twitter and Facebook but their response is ‘just be patient’. BOA even told me on Facebook, ‘to go slow as the matter is sensitive’. The bank seems to have no urgency in sorting out my case. It seems that they want to shift blame on me and thus avoid giving me back my hard-earned money.
All I want is my money back. If you can help me get it back, I will greatly appreciate”.
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