Of Zim's crafty, sophisticated scammers

HARARE - It all started with responding to a message that Maukbul Ahmed Mukadam thought he had received from a local satellite television service provider.

Just 15 minutes later, Mukadam realised he had lost money.

His bank card had been cloned, allegedly by late businessman James Chiyangwa’s son, Mike Harris.

The message seemed like the usual chain messages sent by service providers and claimed there was an upgrade and introduction of new television channels with a confirmation code inscribed 6407.

Mukadam gave in, and what allegedly followed was a call from Chiyangwa requesting his email details, and the $1 100 that was in his bank account was swept away.

Chiyangwa was traced, dragged to court and denied bail.

But Mukadam is just one in many who have fallen prey to the scammers that have rocked Zimbabwe of late.

An Information Systems expert, Admire Zaemba, told the Daily News on Sunday that people who hacked into people’s bank accounts or cloned cards were becoming more sophisticated by the day such that strict security measures ought to be taken.

“These scams have been there but the rates are now alarming. Cards can be cloned through the use of a card skimmer. This is a capture device that allows a criminal to record all the data on a card so they can take money from the victim’s account.

“A card skimmer is most often placed on ATM card slots, but criminals have been known to put them on any machine that accepts debit and credit cards,

“Other card-skimming cons also require the criminals to capture your pin separately, and so they will install a tiny camera pointing at the keypad.

Zaemba warned all card users to ensure that they safeguard their details and verify before responding to messages that seem to be coming from their service providers.

“People should not trust messages that they receive just because it looks like the service provider sent it. In some instances it is better to verify first or even ignore. Service providers must now device methods to safeguards customer’s from this fraud,” Zaemba added.

“People should not also share their debit cards with their spouses and friends as it exposes them to the risk of being cloned. I have seen other people who forget to log out when they visit the Internet café giving anyone access to your details.”

Most banks in Zimbabwe now circulate “security alerts” warning customers not to give information to individuals who call claiming to be agents with some further providing numbers frequently used by fraudsters to dupe people.

Zimbabwe Republic Police have recorded over 150 cases in the last five months since January, where in some cases syndicates have formed alliances with workers to dupe unsuspecting employees.

In a statement, Criminal Investigations Department spokesperson detective assistant inspector Portia Chinho said the Commercial Crimes Division had noted the cases of card cloning which have resulted in financial losses to corporates and individuals.

“Criminals are taking advantage of the uptake of plastic money by business organisations and members of the public to swindle money through card cloning,” she said.

“Card cloning involves the production of counterfeit bank debit cards by criminals after fraudulently acquiring bank debit/credit card information contained in the magnetic strip of the bank debit card.”

People caught committing these offences are charged under section 167 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act) for unauthorised use or possession of credit or debit cards.

Section 168 then criminalises unauthorised use of password or pin of another person.

The offence warrants a maximum penalty of three years or fine of up to level eight, or both.

A lawyer, Liberty Gono, said the scales of justice must be balanced when dealing with offences of this nature.

“When dealing with any criminal matter it is important to balance between the interests of justice and that of the public who would have been wronged. This crime is on the rise and the public has become vulnerable. Anyone caught committing this offence must face his/her day in court,” Gono said.

“The State must also exercise its duty to make sure that thorough investigations are done for justice to prevail.”

Another lawyer, Tarisai Mukwacha, echoed similar sentiments and urged the police to conduct investigations before arresting such offenders.

“The greatest problem the justice system faces is that arrests are made before investigations are completed and yet the law is clear about what procedure ought to be taken. A number of cases are not dealt with to finalisation because of lack of evidence,” Mukwacha said.

Recently, three men and a woman were captured in a video distracting a fuel attendant at Zuva Service Station in Belgravia before stealing a Point of Sale machine.

In the video which went viral on social media last week, one of the culprits calls the fuel attendant to assist with a purported car problem before a lady steals the POS machine and the gang flees the scene.



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