How ‘Kamiti boys’ are cleaning mobile cash wallets every day

Pushed out of banking halls by lenders keen to cut operation costs, customers are falling victim to scams by crooks also reaping from technology. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP A caller rushes through his words but then pauses to gauge their effect on the unknown person on the other end. Like a snake charmer, he relies on sound to bamboozle the potential victim.

The idea is to keep the receiver on the line long enough to buy his story, give him confidence by mentioning he is sitting at the bank head office, then trick him into providing the mobile banking password and other details before an account is cleaned in seconds.

They are called “Kamiti boys”. Brushed aside as some jailbirds dialling random numbers in the rising trend of mobile banking fraud, they are a growing army of fraudsters taking advantage of Kenya’s meteoric adoption of digital banking.

And it has been meteoric. Besides athletics and coffee, Kenya’s most touted international credential is the adoption of M-Pesa the trailblazing mobile money service by Safaricom that is mentioned in all tech conferences globally and even central bankers.

“Overall, there has been a significant growth in digital account ownership, uptake and usage over the last three years. FinAccess 2019 shows that 87 percent of households in Kenya have access to a digital account and 78 percent are active account owners,” reads a study by Francis Gwer, Paul Gubbins, Edoardo Totolo and Jack Odero of Financial Sector Deepening (FSD).

Behind these impressive numbers is a deliberate push by banks to make going to the branch so expensive that the only option will be to use your mobile phone.

A branch customer will pay an average of Sh14,970 in annual transaction costs while the digital client will incur an average of Sh5,620 being just a third of the costs.

However in its wake, it may be exposing customers to fraudsters, and punishing older people and vulnerable customers for using bank branches.

“Banks have shifted to technology to reduce their cost. One way to force you to get out of brick and mortar is to raise the charges of face-to-face services. Going by our culture, we love face-to-face interaction, hence we must be forced,” said Prof XN Iraki, an economist at the University of Nairobi.

Banks spent billions of shillings buying technology platforms and building lending applications as the race to become digital heated up.

To adjust to these investments, they fired […]

Stay in the Know!

Sign up for the latest news and information on African Companies and Economy.

By signing up, you agree to receive MoneyInAfrica offers, promotions and other commercial messages. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Leave a Reply