NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 11 – Mobile operator Safaricom is to install signal-jamming devices in prisons as it steps up the fight against mobile phone crime in the country.
This follows an increase of crimes being committed from the precincts of prisons by inmates with illegal access to mobile phones.
Under a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the operator and the Kenya Prisons Service on Tuesday, the two organisations will work out ways to deal with cases of mobile phone-based crime.
The mobile phone jamming equipment will be used to block calls as well as text messages and M-PESA transactions originating from or terminating within the prisons countrywide.
Statistics indicate that most of the phone-related fraud originates from prisons, prompting the two parties to partner in efforts to insulate Kenyans from the syndicates that run these criminal operations.
Investigations have confirmed that about 70 percent of the fraudsters are located within prison sites. Once they defraud a customer, they either send the funds to their accomplices outside the prisons or forward them to their fellow inmates to disguise the trail of money and avoid a reversal being done.
Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore said the company would continue to deepen its partnership with law enforcement agencies to ensure that subscribers are protected from mobile phone criminals.
“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,” Collymore said.
He said 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 impersonated Safaricom 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.
The inmates are said to collude with people outside the prison to provide them with phone numbers of wealthy people who they called and threatened with death if they did not follow orders.
Prisons Commissioner Isaiah Osugo said some inmates were becoming more sophisticated with 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,” Osugo said.
Available figures indicate that Kamiti Prison leads in originating mobile phone-related fraud cases with 65 percent of reported cases in the last four months alone. Nakuru Prison follows with 15 percent, Meru Prison at 12 percent, Shimo la Tewa with six percent and Kibos one percent of total cases reported.
The month of July reported the highest number of cases with Kamiti accounting for over 15,000 incidents.