Rate of MoMo fraud cases drop in Ghana as MTN devices new ways of reducing crime

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The use of mobile money has grown exponentially within 10 years in Ghana. This makes the oil-producing west African country one of Africa’s leaders in mobile money innovation, adoption, and usage.

According to figures from the Bank of Ghana (BoG), mobile money accounts now surpass bank accounts and greater financial inclusion has benefited large swathes of the population that remain unbanked including the poor, the young, and women.

While access to traditional banking services remains almost a mirage for most Ghanaians, the universal availability of mobile phones has allowed millions to access mobile money services in the country.

The Governor of the Bank of Ghana Dr Ernest Addison said, currently, there are more than nineteen million (19,000,000) active mobile money accounts driving the digital financial services industry.

“Prior to the pandemic, this number stood at (14.4 million), It is clear that the pandemic resulted in bringing household and firms into the FINTECH space. Similarly, the Mobile money interoperability continued to show strong growth, recording 365 percent
growth in volume and 651 percent in value between 2019 and 2020. As at September this year, interoperability transactions grew by 216 percent in volume and 350 percent in value compared to same period last year,” Dr Addison said at the Ghana Economic Forum 2021 held on Monday October 18 on the theme: “strengthening home grown policies to underpin the national digitisation drive and shared financial prosperity.”

This is an indication that most Ghanaians now rely on mobile money to send and receive money domestically. 

But the story of MoMo transaction cannot be told without mentioning the activities of fraudsters who attempt to dupe subscribers as with all other transactions and the counter measures introduced.

The Journalists for Business Advocacy (JBA), a group of business and financial journalists, notes that Mobile Money (MoMo) fraud cases especially on the platform of MobileMoney Limited, the MTN Ghana subsidiary responsible for mobile financial services, have been reduced especially in the COVID-19 era.

The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, launched a platform that will harmonise individual fraud control mechanisms of mobile money operators in the country

This is after MTN Ghana increased its efforts and measures to protect customers against Mobile Money fraudsters with the introduction of new counter-measures include blocking of devices across all networks.

Members of JBA believe that these thought-through measures are timely as they protect the income and of subscribers.

Chief Executive Officer of the telecom giant Selorm Adadevoh told members of the JBA in a meeting as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the company that the cross-mobile Network Operator blocking a fraudster’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) system means a blocked or blacklisted phone will not operate on any cellular network in the country.

“We have come together as a chamber to say how do we intensify or increase the barriers to fraud and blocking a device across all networks is for us one step.

“This is one activity that we are currently focused on and one that we have implemented so we will be block across all the networks as a device. This has taken effect already. This has been in place for about two months,” Mr Adadevoh told the media.

CEO of MTN Ghana, Selorm Adadevoh

The Senior Manager for Anti-money Laundering, Compliance and Analytics at MTN Mobile Money, Godwin Tamakloe, at an engagement  with JBA also said noted that  the number of fraud cases dropped to 300 cases as at the end of April last year.

This was from the 900 cases in 2019.

He also attributed the drop to the sustained public education and other strategies deployed by the company to arrest the criminal activities of the fraudsters.

Through the creation of public education awareness, most customers of the MTN Mobile Money have started reporting incidences of suspected MoMo fraud cases to the company for prompt action.

Mr Tamakloe explained that these improve education initiatives were helping the company to win the war against the MoMo fraud.

This is because most of these educational initiatives are usually crafted in the local dialects of the customers and air on television (TV) and radio stations across the length and breadth of the West African country.

Furthermore, the company recently employed and resourced thousands of mobile agents nationwide to provide customer and public education for all people irrespective of their networks.

In February 2020, the MTN Mobile Money launched a new programme aimed at localizing the MoMo education by involving traditional rulers, opinion leaders, churches and mosques, among others to ensure that the messages reach all in the communities.

“We are taking the education campaign to the communities, houses, churches, mosques, workplaces, among others to drum home the MoMo fraud campaign”, the General Manager of MobileMoney Limited, Eli Hini, said at the launch of the MoMo U4Know education programme in Agbogbloshie in the Accra metropolis.

General Manager of MobileMoney Limited, Eli Hini

Additionally, the MTN Mobile Money platform which is on the MTN Ghana network is leveraging all MTN owned opportunities to disseminate awareness to all the customers as well as potential customers.

Mr Tamakloe stated: “We also engaged in partnerships and trainings for major associations/communities”. This spirit of partnership has encouraged the company to enter into another partnership with the Ghana Police Service to publish arrested and prosecuted cases in the Ghanaian media.

 For instance in July 2017, MTN Ghana in partnership with the Ghana Police led to arrest of two culprits at Assin Daaman in the Central Region. The two were suspected to be involved in Mobile Money scams.

The suspects were arrested, following a tip-off from MTN about suspicious activities of a group based in Assin Daaman who allegedly send Mobile Money scam messages to subscribers with the intention of tricking them into sending funds to a designated number. They were arraigned before court and remanded in police custody.

Besides these strategies, the managers of the service are monitoring emerging threats and adoption of best practices to protect their customers from the nefarious activities of the fraudsters.

They also institute a formalized process for managing fraud arrest and prosecution as well as partnering with the law enforcement agencies to manage fraud cases associated with mobile money in the country.

MTN also made provision to train  judges on fraudsters take advantage of the mobile money transactions to defraud unsuspecting customers.

Mr Tamakloe has said the training for the judges is purposed to inform the decisions they make in respect to Mobile Money fraud cases that are brought before them by the police.

He explained that the company has already trained personnel of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service on how the mobile money system operates to enable them detect fraud with ease.

He said these while speaking at a capacity building workshop for JBA members in Accra on Thursday, October 26, Mr Tamakloe said: “The training of the judges is a plan that came up and so we will surely be engaging the right people within the right quarters.

“As we did with the police, we will also do the same thing for the judges; that is the plan that we want to have. They are also another part of the stakeholders we believe play significant roles within the space.”

Touching generally on the Mobile Money operations, Mr Tamakloe stated that the transaction is safe, although there a few miscreants who will want to take advantage of it to dupe unsuspecting customers.

He explained that MTN Ghana has put in place strict measures to help in combating frauds associated with the transaction.

“We have invested in systems to monitor and track the Mobile Money transactions. We have also provided helplines that the customers can call. The Call Centre is 100, the agents can also call 114 when they are encountering challenges with the system,” he added.

Dispelling assertions that some staff of MTN may be engaging in the Mobile Money fraud, he stated that: “There is no evidence of MTN employees engaging in the mobile money fraud,” adding, “We review our access to know the employees who have access to what platform we monitor. We also have a system that reviews all the audit trails.

“We receive 365 complaints monthly. Because of MTN’s large market share, that is why we have this number of complaints, it doesn’t mean the other telcos do not have such complaints.”

By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana