Claims of international fraud cartel in Safaricom’s Sh450m fine dispute with CA

Claims of international fraud cartel in Safaricom’s Sh450m fine dispute with CA

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore. FILE PHOTO | NMG Serious claims of an illegal international calls syndicate that could have exposed subscribers to fraud and breached national security have emerged in an ongoing dispute between Safaricom , the regulator and two small telecommunication firms.

Numerous correspondence between the entities reveals a long-running dispute, with allegations of illegal international calls whose source cannot be determined being at the heart of the dispute.

The regulator on August 1 fined Safaricom Sh449 million after it found it culpable of blocking calls from the smaller telcos, Elige Communications Ltd and Geonet Communications.

Elige and Geonet are licensed to provide voice over internet services.

Safaricom in a three-page strongly-worded letter questioned the failure by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to investigate the two firms over their acts of fraudulently terminating international calls into Safaricom’s network disguised as local calls.

“Kenyans have also in the past been warned about mobile fraud perpetrated through international calls that exhaust their airtime and manipulation by these companies compounds the risk,” Safaricom told the CA in a letter dated August 3.

Safaricom is referring to an international scam in which mobile phone users are fleeced of their money by fraudsters, causing jitters among local service providers.

In the scam, victims receive very brief or missed calls from unknown international numbers with strange foreign prefixes. The scheme is designed to lure phone users into returning the “urgent” international calls, upon which they are unknowingly redirected to premium numbers that drain their airtime.

The longer the caller stays on the line, the more money the swindlers make.

The scam, dubbed “wangiri” because the phone rings only once, has been reported elsewhere across the world, leading telecom firms in Europe and the United States to raise the alarm.

Safaricom questions the failure by the CA not to interrogate allegations of the two firms terminating international calls by strange numbers locally despite being licensed to operate only local traffic, terming those calls fraudulent. The two firms have denied the allegations.Safaricom further notes that both Geonet and Elige exposed its network to calls from unregistered, unidentifiable and untraceable callers ‘raising significant security concerns to the country.’ The CA in a letter titled ‘failure to heed the authority’s directives’ accuses Safaricom of failure to respond to the complaints by Elige, the last one dated July 13, 2018.The regulator further notes that previous complaints have not been adequately addressed. CA director-general Francis Wangusi. FILE PHOTO | […]

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