Why are these mobile money fraudsters difficult to catch?

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

scamsIn an advice article published in the Sunday Mail today (read it so you don’t fall prey), the police warned readers that fraudsters in Zimbabwe are now using mobile money services like EcoCash, Telecash, OneWallet and others, to conveniently take money from victims. A common trick, says the article, is one targeted at job seekers who are asked to transfer money electronically as an upfront payment.

The conmen apparently  use “fraudulent mobile accounts” and, according to the article, they quickly discard the sim after a successful job.  This is strange because to receive money (and to cash it out) one has to use a registered sim, and one registered in their name. In fact, they have to bring produce identification to confirm they own the sim. So we assume tracing who these fraudsters are shouldn’t be too difficult a job.

But maybe they are registering sims using fake IDs from the onset? Or is it the case that we still have unregistered sim cards on the market, and that more are being activated even as we speak? It is possible right now to send money from a Telecash account to any mobile number in Zimbabwe, making it clearly impossible for Telecel to check whether the recipients on other networks are properly registered sim cards or not.

The market (us included) have heavily criticized Econet for what we’ve seen as a market unfriendly move to stop money transfers to other networks. Econet ofcourse defended themselves as working to reduce money laundering, but we all took that with some skepticism. Could it be Econet is actually at the forefront of preventing such fraud, or at least being able to trace the thief after the act?

I have no idea if Econet’s methods would indeed result in any thieves & conmen being caught. I know for example that despite reporting gadgets worth thousands to the police as stolen (smash & grab), and the police submitting a request for records to Econet so they could help my stuff, nothing ever came through. Not even a negative report to just say the gadgets in question were not used on their network. And such stories are very common. Maybe it’s the police’s reluctance. Maybe the mobile operator’s.

image via honeytechblog.com


  1. notsohappyewzguy

    LSM, I have noted with concern that EWZ is not really keen on pursuing issues like this. I ll cite an example, some time ago I had a phone stolen. Fortunately I thought to myself this phone has a mobile tracker and I have the IMEI etc. To my dismay, when I visited Econet with the local law, they instructed me to go to the Risk department in MSASA, which I did and while I already had the phone number of the perp, six months later no samsung s3 in my pocket.

    1. Guest

      A samsung galaxy s3 does have a mobile tracking method, either via Google Android manager, (https://www.google.com/android/devicemanager) of via Samsung’s own FindMyMobile (http://findmymobile.samsung.com/)
      Did you ever try any of those two before trying to blame EWZ.

      1. Tinashe Roy

        Those services only work if and only if the phone is online and the GPS is enabled and its your account that is logged in to the services. If the phone has been flashed or reset, your are left with only the IMEI tracking option. There Econet will weigh the value of your Phone ($400) vs the salary of the staff that’s going to check your IMEI on their network.

        End result, IMEI tracking is just not worth it for Econet / Telecel. Its a shame though

        1. Farai Sairai

          Best is to track immediately before it is flashed/reset. I wish the tracking software would involve the IMEI instead of using the cell number. I had my S2 stolen but within 10 minutes whilst I was tracking it on my laptop, it disappeared just as I was getting close to the source. Ma1

    2. purple

      My phone and laptop where stolen and i managed to recover my phone. With an android device you should root it and install Avira Antitheft. My phone was able to send an sms when a sim was inserted. It was also able to report its location without the user knowing it. That was the information I gave to the police. They then used the sms sender number to get the name from the cellphone company.

    3. Bossolona

      I see that you visited an Econet Shop hoping to get your phone tracked. You were supposed to report the case to the police and then the police (not you) would get hold of the Econet LEGAL DIVISION (not Risk). The fact that you did not follow these procedures may have resulted in you not getting assistance. Note that Econet did not come up with these requirements, but they were put in place by Potraz. Should your case have been pursued properly, you should have received assistance within two weeks. The reason why Econet will not tell you who is using your phone is because every subscriber is entitled to privacy even the person who stole your phone which is why the police have to come in place because you would have proven ownership of the device to them through the police report. Should you have been lying, then this would be another case.

  2. Langton

    Surely there are still a number of ways people are going to be duped of their money, if its not via mobile money transfer then its via another means!

  3. dadigger

    If it is too good to be true, it probably is. On another note, fraud can be expected with any “new” technology before people truly get to grips with it. The more things change the more they stay the same.

  4. Drogo

    As I was strolling from place to place in South Africa I recently had my bag stolen, with my laptop, smartphone and tablet but the culprits were apprehended by law enforcement officers within three days using tracking technology. This in Zimbabwe is futile to report such cases to police.

  5. Farai Sairai

    I may sound crude but anyone who sends money to a stranger in the hope of getting a job is crazy. I do not know how someone can think that this process works. Wait another 6 months more people will get crooked using the same modus operandi