M-PESA Fraud - Agents Beware!

Tricksters and dishonest people have always existed in our midst.  It is definitely naive to imagine that our new techno-savvy way of life is an exception to the age old social patterns. This afternoon, an M-PESA agent was a victim of a new line of M-PESA fraud.

Here goes the story; this is factual and occurred on February 1st 2010 in a peri-urban setting about 24 kilometres from the Nairobi City Centre
  1. About 2.00PM, a lady and a gentleman who looked to be in their mid twenties visited an M-PESA outlet, claiming to be Safaricom supervisors. The two wore valid looking M-PESA badges and even carried M-PESA promotional material for the outlet.  The two inspected the outlet’s log books then left. Note: It is normal for Safaricom to send supervisors to routinely inspect various parameters on operations of M-PESA outlets. The supervisors usually wear Safaricom badges and often take with them M-PESA promotional material to the outlets
  2. About 20 minutes after the purported supervisors left, an old looking man estimated to be at his late 50s or early 60s came to the same outlet requesting to withdraw Ksh.35,000. The man was allowed to withdraw the desired Ksh 35,000 and went ahead to initiate the withdrawal from his phone – as is the normal procedure.
  3. Shortly after, the outlet attendants received an SMS purporting to record and authenticate the old man’s withdrawal transaction. The SMS received by the attendant had a valid looking M-PESA transaction number and the old man’s purported names which were verified against an original national ID which he presented.
  4. The M-PESA attendant, convinced about the validity of the transaction (just like hundreds of others processed daily) gave the old man an initial Ksh. 30,000 and was reaching out for the remaining Ksh. 5,000. Before the exta amount could be retrieved, the old man calmly signed the outlet transaction and walked away saying he would come for the remainder later.
  5. The M-PESA attendant continued with the next customer, expecting their float to have increased by Ksh. 35,000 as a result of the withdrawal. The expected float was then not reflected in the valid M-PESA SMS after the next customer’s transaction – raising a red flag to the M-PESA attendant.
  6. The M-PESA attendant shortly after called 234 – Safaricom’s M-PESA service line for clarification and the service support person on the other end reported that the transaction withdrawing Ksh. 35,000 was not reflected in the M-PESA system
  7. Alarmed at the Safaricom claim, the M-PESA attendant frantically attempted to call out for the old man who had disappeared by then without a trace. 
  8. Late in the afternoon, the M-PESA agent went to the police station to report the incident. The police officers took initial details and promised to visit the outlet the following day for further investigations.
A number of discrepancies have since been highlighted on the fake M-PESA SMS which is copied and pasted below

P47DT685 confirmed on 01/2/2010 at 2.20PM Give Ksh 35,000 to DANIEL MAINA New M-PESA balance is Kh 42,049 Sender:MPESA +254771831462’ 

I shall leave the analysis of the text and the resulting fraud to the reader for now.

Note that according to the Safaricom M-PESA support person, the M-PESA agent only has to count their loss as no indemnity is payable to the agent for their predicament. When the known Safaricom / M-PESA representative for the affected region was contacted they disowned  ‘supervisory visit’ by the lady and gentleman 20 minutes before the 'withdrawal' was requested. I wonder how many more M-PESA agents have fallen pryy to this new M-PESA trickery.