Safaricom to block out Kenya prisoners from network

Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore

Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore

Kenya’s leading mobile telephony company, Safaricom, intends to block all services originating and going to its networks within all prisons in Kenya in a move aimed at protecting its subscribers against fraudsters, mainly holed up in the correction facilities.

The mobile firm has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Kenya Prisons Service that will see it among install a mobile phone jamming equipment to block fraudulent calls and M-PESA transactions within prisons.

Statistics from Safaricom indicate that most of the phone-related fraud cases originate from prisons with Kamiti prison taking the lead with about 1,500 fraudulent SMS and calls during the month of July which translated to 65 per cent of the total incidents during the month.

Other than Kamiti the practice is also ripe in other prisons across the country including, Nakuru, Meru, Kibos and Shimo la Tewa.

Safaricom chief executive, Bob Collymore said the company would continue to strengthen its partnership with law enforcement agencies to ensure that subscribers are protected from mobile phone crime.

Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Robert Collymore address journalist during the release of the company results on November 10 2010.

“Our aim is to fortify M-PESA’s position as a safe, fast and convenient means of money transfer and a tool for positively transforming lives all over Kenya. Ring-fencing the service from criminal elements is a critical part of this continuous quest,” said Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore.

In September, President Mwai Kibaki ordered all unregistered simcard to be switched off; saying that a new law introduced in 2011/2012 national Budget through the Finance Bill, now gives the mobile operators teeth to deregister the simacrds.

This directive followed an earlier one made in July 2009, directing that all mobile SIM cards be registered, however due to lack of legal backing the exercise stalled and had to begin an year later, with statistics from the industry regulator indicating that so far 80 per cent of the 24 million subscribers had registered by March this year.

In the last one year, a substantial number of Kenyans have fallen victim to fraudsters targeting M-pesa users. In some cases, the criminals have been impersonating Safaricom/M-pesa staff to trick unsuspecting customers who end up sending money to them in order to claim ‘prizes’ won in non-existent promotions.

Another tactic used by the fraudsters is the sending of fake M-pesa messages to customers who are then called and asked to send back the ‘erroneously’ transferred funds.

Once the prison fraudsters defraud a customer, they either send the funds to their accomplices outside the prisons or send to their fellow inmates to disguise the trail of money and avoid a reversal being done.

Prisons Commissioner Isaiah Osugo said some inmates were becoming more sophisticated with the advances in technology and called for sustained support from all industry players.

“We are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that Kenyans are safe. We therefore intend to partner with Safaricom and other organisations in ensuring that our correctional facilities play their role as transformational institutions effectively and do not become a theatre for the commission of crime,” said Mr. Osugo.

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