It is a fact that information and communication technology (ICT) has transformed the way people do business around the world.
Take banking, for instance. Today, one does not need to jump into a bus, walk into a banking hall or automated teller machine (ATM) to make payments. They can pay for utility bills and all from any corner of the world using mobile or Internet banking.
The mobile phone is no longer about making voice calls or sending text messages only. It is also the gateway to financial freedom as well through mobile money platforms.
In Malawi, TNM Mpamba and Airtel Money have, over the years, become a popular means of sending and receiving money or paying for utilities such as water and electricity.
Digital transactions are a growing phenomenally in the world. No wonder, the theme for World Consumer Rights Day on March 15 last year was Building a Digital World Consumers Can Trust.
In 2017, Consumers International said global e-commerce sales reached $2.29 trillion. This was achieved against the fact that 70 in every 100 consumers worry that their digital payments are not safe. On the other hand, half of the world’s population estimated at 7.6 billion is still offline.
How safe are digital or online transactions? This is one question that bothers many.
Closer home, in recent months, there has emerged a syndicate of tricksters who masquerade as agents of mobile telecommunications network operators and are ripping off unsuspecting customers. Many people have been duped.
What the tricksters do is that they send an alert text from their numbers and then call a subscriber claiming that they had erroneously wired funds to their Airtel Money or TNM Mpamba accounts; hence, they need a reversal of the transactions. I personally received such texts and, upon examining them, I noted they were not generated by Airtel Money and indicated no balance. I told the sender off. But others have not been so lucky. They have fallen prey and sent their funds to the crooks.
This week, a colleague had his Airtel Money account wiped clean by the same tricksters. They called him on the pretext that they wanted to assist him with sim card registration and upgrade to fourth generation (4G) technology. In the course of the conversation, they asked him to dial *102#, the sim swap code. The next thing he realised he could not receive or make calls and his Airtel Money account was drained.
Some unsuspecting customers have also been swindled at ATMs by people who claim to have forgotten their ATM cards and request that they do electronic transfers to their bank accounts so that they withdraw on their behalf. Please, do not play a Good Samaritan. Many of such people are fraudsters. They generate messages to hoodwink you that they have made a funds transfer when they have not.
Worth bearing in mind is that online transactions are safe. What is key is for consumers to take precautions.
For instance, many of us would not give bank account details to anyone either over the phone or via e-mail. Where necessary, we only share such details with family and business associates.
Online transactions, including mobile money, are the in-thing. We can simply not do without them.
It is important for consumers to bear in mind that no service provider—banks or financial institutions—does know your customer (KYC) processes over the phone or via e-mail. Many will always want you to physically process such paperwork at their points of representation.
Many of us also tend to use our birthdays or those of our children as pin codes. Desist from this. Instead, use distinctively unique numbers you can memorise.
Tricksters usually play around with birthdate details and get your pin code right. You will end up losing your money.
In case of mobile phone companies and Airtel Malawi in particular, the company has a self sim swap innovation using short code 102. If you are to swap the sim on your own, you are first required to buy a blank sim. If anyone calls you and tells you to dial *102# and follow instructions, please cut the line and report the case to Airtel Malawi or nearest police.
At whatever cost, please avoid sharing critical information such as pin codes, passwords, birth dates and account numbers with strangers on the phone or online.