MTN Rwanda to Fight Mobile Money Fraud with New USSD Code for Cash Withdrawal

Ejike Kanife

In its fight against the spate of mobile money fraud executed on its platform, MTN Rwanda has unveiled a new strategy aimed at curbing the menace. This strategy is the introduction of a USSD code into the cash withdrawal process.

Effective today, mobile money customers who wish to withdraw cash from the MTN platform must complete the process by dialling a USSD code from their registered phone number. No cash withdrawal would be permitted without the USSD code.

“All mobile money customers will have to pre-authorize any withdrawal request by dialing *182*7# before an agent can send a withdrawal prompt message.”

Teta Mpyisi, Brand and Sponsorship Senior Manager, MTN Rwanda

According to MTN Rwanda’s Brand and Sponsorship Senior Manager, Teta Mpyisi, an agent can’t send a withdrawal prompt message without the completion of the withdrawal process. The USSD code would make it difficult for fraudsters to complete the execution of their criminal acts.

Mobile money boom in Rwanda

Mobile money adoption is quickly sweeping through sub-Saharan Africa. In Rwanda, adoption spiked between January and May, during the Covid-19 pandemic. This followed a new set of policies initiated on March 19 by the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR). One of the new policies set the fee for mobile money transactions at zero.

The response was instant. In the week after lockdown was initiated, 1.2 million people initiated cash transfers. This is a 100% increase from just 600,000 in the previous week.

MTN Rwanda to Fight Mobile Money Fraud with New USSD Code for Cash Withdrawal
Rise in volume and value of MoMo in Rwanda

The rise in volume of usage also brought about a spike in the value of funds transferred, rising a whopping 450%.

According to data from the Rwanda Utilities Regulation Authorities, the value of transferred funds rose to 40 billion Rwandan Franc in April, up from about 7.3 billion in January.

MTN Rwanda has nearly 3 million mobile money customers.

Rising cases of mobile money fraud

But the volume and value of mobile money transactions weren’t the only beneficiaries of the system as the volume and value of mobile money fraud also rose alongside them.

According to figures released in June by the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), there are about 80 reported cases of people whose money was stolen from mobile phones. Almost 12 million Rwandan Francs was stolen by the mobile money fraudsters and 46 persons have been arrested and are undergoing prosecution.

According to the Bureau, the potential victims are people who don’t protect their pin numbers and people who pay attention to scam messages concerning money transactions. This rendered them very vulnerable to the fraudsters.

“We ask people living in Rwanda to protect their secret pins, avoid messages from strangers concerning money transactions, and also be cautious of people that call and impersonate as telecom company employees,” the Spokesperson of RIB, Marie-Michelle Umuhoza had said.

But the RIB’s warnings have clearly gone unheeded as the volume and value of mobile money theft continues to rise post-pandemic. This effectively puts some of the responsibility of protecting customers on the MoMo operators like MTN Rwanda. Thus the need to introduce this new USSD code strategy.

“This is to ensure that the MoMo platform remains safe and secured while protecting our customers from fraudsters who want to take advantage of them”.

MTN Rwanda

The rising popularity of mobile money in Africa is bringing with it a commensurate rise in fraudulent activities perptrated through the system. The situation wasn’t very different in Ghana after a waiver of transfer fees by the Bank of Ghana saw a sharp rise in both adoption of MoMo and rate of fraud on the platform.

But while MTN Ghana seem unable to proffer a solution to its own problems, its Rwandan counterpart is quite optimistic that its new strategy would work considerably well.

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