Safaricom, banks deploy tool to fight SIM-swap scams

Telco giant Safaricom has stepped up efforts to eliminate financial fraud that is largely associated with unauthorized SIM-swap of targeted persons, a criminal activity that is fast gaining notoriety in Kenya.

Through a deal with six banks, Safaricom has deployed the SIM-Swap-Check Anti-fraud feature, a tool that offers the participating banks an application programming interface (API) where they can check when a customer’s SIM card was last swapped.

The results of the query, Safaricom noted, will be crucial in informing the appropriate action to take to deter the crime.

“The rapid growth of Kenya’s fintech sector has been accompanied by a rapidly evolving threat environment targeting both customers and fintech operators. It is, therefore, necessary for different players to partner around innovations that protect customers and their funds to safeguard the gains made,” said Peter Ndegwa, CEO, Safaricom.

The lenders will have a free monthly quota of checks and a premium tier for additional checks. The feature was developed following an analysis of fraud reports, the telco said.

To further tame banking fraud, Safaricom will also be providing the banks with an ATM Vicinity Check solution that ensures an ATM withdrawal can only be conducted if the transacting customer is in the same location as the ATM. This service comes at zero charge.

Mobile phones in Kenya are often synonymous with bank accounts, and a significant number of people usually keep all their savings and other critical details about their money on their mobile phones. Increasingly, fraudsters have devised various ways to hack into their accounts to steal money.

According to the 2022 Customer Satisfaction Survey by Kenya Bankers Association, about 67.8 percent of Kenyans preferred mobile banking platforms, a trend that has been gaining traction since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic and continues to stay elevated which is consistent with the 2021 FinAccess survey findings that found mobile banking usage also increased between 2019 and 2021.

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