As the continent becomes increasingly digitized, the way we bank and handle our finances has also changed. From ‘under the mattress’ to the convenience of online and mobile banking, it’s easier than ever to access our money and make transactions. However, it is also convenient for fraudsters who don’t have to sneak into your bedroom or break into a vault to access your funds.
As such, Equity Bank has been notoriously involved in financial fraud and theft over the years with hundreds of reports of missing funds surfacing.
A recent incident at Equity Bank’s Kirinyaga branch, where a customer had Sh200,000 stolen from her account, serves as a reminder of the importance of being vigilant when it comes to banking and protecting our personal information. The customer who narrated her story to a Twitter user by the name Kimuzi, suspects that rogue insiders at both Equity Bank and Safaricom collaborated to swindle her money.
According to Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa, 99% of all thefts from M-Pesa are a result of social engineering. Social engineering is a tactic used by fraudsters to trick people into revealing personal information or taking actions that compromise their security. This can include phishing scams, where fraudsters send emails or text messages pretending to be a legitimate institution, or impersonating a customer’s bank to gain access to their account.
“Most of these people who get their money stolen from M-Pesa are people who give out their details, either directly via social engineering or indirectly… for example in a club while drinking and they have to pay via the mobile money platform, they will input their PIN without checking who sees it, say their phone gets stolen and money withdrawn, they will then blame us (Safaricom).” A Safaricom official told me after I questioned the safety of money in our M-Pesa accounts.
“If the system was compromised, all accounts would be compromised.” Mr. Ndegwa added. While I still believe there are rogue employees who work with thieves to steal our funds, banks and telecommunication companies would never admit this.
This is not to say that there are no issues of social engineering, in order to avoid falling victim to such financial fraud, you should be aware of the following:
- Be wary of unsolicited emails or text messages that ask for personal information or financial details
- Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown sources.
- Be very wary of suspicious phone calls or emails from people claiming to be from your bank or other financial institution, especially if they have your personal information and ask for extra info.
- Use multiple layers of security for mobile banking
- This goes without saying, regularly check your account balance and transaction history to detect any unauthorized transactions
That said, it is high time banks like Equity took responsibility for funds that go missing in their care, they need to take proactive steps to protect their customers from fraud. They also need to improve communication with customers in case of any security breaches.
The fact that employees have access to sensitive customer information and financial transactions makes them a prime target for fraudsters looking to steal money or personal information. To prevent employees from becoming complicit in financial fraud, financial institutions should take the necessary steps to ensure the security and integrity of their workforce and stop the deny deny tactic.