Nyamira Governor Amos Nyaribo is the latest victim of a SIM swap fraud syndicate that has in the recent past seen many Kenyans lose colossal amounts of money to conmen.
In a statement on Sunday, January 8, the county boss said unknown persons had taken over his personal mobile phone number through a SIM swap/cloning.
The governor said the scammers were soliciting money from his contacts through SMS and WhatsApp messages and cautioned members of the public against falling prey to the con game.
"I urge the public to ignore messages soliciting for cash from a number through text messages and WhatsApp that is associated with my cell phone number," Nyaribo warned.
The governor also noted that police were aware of the incident and investigations are ongoing.
"The National Police Service is currently investigating a case of sim swapping/cloning.
Please let's stand advised accordingly," he added.
The incident comes barely two weeks after police arrested a suspected mastermind behind a notorious mobile money fraud syndicate operating from Bomet and Narok counties.
David Mutai alias Hillary Langat Matindwet was arrested in Kericho town on December 30, 2022, barely 48 hours after the Directorate of Criminal Investigations declared the suspect a wanted man.
DCI described Mutai as a dangerous criminal who has previously served time in prison.
"Detectives have unmasked the mastermind of the infamous Mulot SIM swap syndicate, one David Mutai alias Hillary Langat Matindwet, a dangerous criminal who has previously served time in prison and has several cases and warrants of arrests hanging around his neck.
"This follows comprehensive investigations by the detectives based at the elite Crime Research & Intelligence Bureau, who unravelled the identity of the de facto leader of the criminal enterprise, responsible for SIM swap scam in which phone scammers hijack a victim’s cell phone number and use it to gain access to sensitive personal data and bank accounts through the mobile banking applications available on mobile phones," DCI said.
Police further said that Mutai and his two accomplices identified as Justus Rono and Kevin Kiplagat siphoned Ksh941,000 from a bank account belonging to a Member of Parliament (MP) who had travelled out of the country between December 2 and 3, 2022.
"In a recent case leading to the arrest of two of his accomplices, the scammers had siphoned Sh941,000 from a bank account belonging to a legislator from Rift Valley, who was out of the country on official duties between December 2 and 3 this month.
"Following the incident reported by the legislator,one of Mutai’s lieutenants Justus Rono, 28, was tracked down by detectives and arrested in the fraudsters paradise of Mulot, a dusty town shared between Bomet and Narok counties.
"Rono, who disguises himself as a boda boda rider is one of the main suspect’s trusted allies, who ferries him on his bike discreetly to avoid detection from our hawk-eyed sleuths. Images of Rono showing off wads of cash following some of the successful operations that they have conducted, were also obtained by the detectives," DCI tweeted.
"A second suspect identified as Kevin Kiplagat, was also apprehended at Sigor market Bomet county, in the latest arrest of SIM swap fraudsters who have sought refuge in the infamous trading centre that has gained notoriety for harbouring cons. The fraudsters who have also perfected the act of impersonating senior government officials recently obtained an unspecified amount of money from unsuspecting members of the public, after posing as a senior state official who would influence employment and business opportunities at a fee," DCI added.
How they defrauded victims
Police said the three suspects worked in cahoots with rogue banking officials to pose as customer care agents from banks before asking for a customer’s account number, PIN and other details.
"The suspects who have registered multiple SIM cards using details from fraudulently acquired identification documents, deposit the siphoned money to different Mpesa accounts, in a bid to make it difficult for detectives to track them down.
"In most instances, the fraudsters working in cahoots with rogue banking officials pose as customer care agents from banks then ask for a customer’s account number, PIN, as well as details of the last transaction on the targeted account. They then use the details to duplicate the victims’ accounts and after a successful SIM swap, the account is swept clean in a matter of seconds.
"Local financial institutions are the most targeted due to their inferior network segmentation systems, that expose their clients’ sensitive data to the fraudsters in case of cyber threats.
"As a precautionary measure, Kenyans are requested not to reveal their national identity card name and number, the last time they made an M-Pesa transaction and the amount, the last airtime top-up and amount and the Personal Identification Number of their sim cards to strangers who contact them.
"You are also advised not to use your year of birth as your Personal Identification Number," DCI tweeted.