Mobile money service agents have been targeted by dishonest individuals using fake US dollar bills to trick agents out of hundreds of dollars at a time.
According to several EcoCash agents who spoke to Harare News, the fraudsters present themselves as seeking money transfer services but during the transaction process, dupe agents into accepting counterfeit notes.
In the past, agents were able to counter these maneuvers by contacting the EcoCash call centre and having the relevant account blocked almost immediately. However, it appears the fraudsters have perfected their scam as they are now able to clear the money as soon as it is deposited into their mobile wallets. Moreover, the fraudsters frequently use stolen ID to register lines, rendering court orders to release subscriber information all but redundant when trying to track down the criminals after the deed is done.
EcoCash agent Tatenda Sithole who operates along Chinhoyi Street recalled the day it happened to him. “A man in his early 30s came into my shop and gave me $600 to transfer into his EcoCash account. As usual, I tested the bank notes and was satisfied that they were genuine. But I did not have enough money in my account to do the transfer so he requested his money back. While still in my shop he made a call and asked me to talk to the person on the phone – the intended recipient of the money he wanted to transfer to. The person on the phone then requested that I transfer whatever amount I could manage. That’s when I was given $500 in fake notes with a few genuine notes on top.”
Misheck Mujeyi who operates an outlet along Mbuya Nehanda Street said he cannot clearly recall what transpired on the day he was defrauded of a considerable amount of money. “A gentleman approached me and said he wanted $400 transferred into his EcoCash account. As is the normal for me I checked that the notes he gave me were genuine. After that, I remember we had a long discussion about how much money I should transfer into his account. He took his money back but then later gave me what appeared to be the same pile of notes. The fake notes were hidden behind a few real ones,” said Mujeyi.
Another EcoCash agent, Tinashe Mukonzvi said that in 2014 he received a phone call from his employee who had been swindled out of $700 using the same methods. “Their biggest trick is to confuse you so that you do not even ask for identity documents,” said Mukonzvi.
National Police Spokesperson Charity Charamba told Harare News that the police have noted an increase in the circulation of fake notes and cases Ecocash agents being defrauded. “It is becoming a concern for us but obviously we blame the agents who allow people to transact without noting the proper details. These details would enable us to track and arrest those involved in such crimes,” said Charamba.
Image: An EcoCash agent in the CBD.