Safaricom has today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Kenya Prisons Service looking to address the mobile phone crime being committed from the confines of the country’s prisons.

The MOU deepens and provides structure to an existing partnership between the Prisons Service and Safaricom. According to the agreement, the two organizations will try to work out ways to deal with cases of mobile phone-based crime. Safaricom will consider installing mobile phone jamming equipment to block fraudulent calls and M-PESA transactions within prisons. Already Naivasha Prison has such a facility which has reduced crime being committed from the facility.

The MOU might not solve all these problems because Prison Warders might just tamper with the equipment since a good number of them are aware and party to the crimes being committed from the confines of the correctional centres.

According to national statistics, most of the phone-related fraud cases originate from prisons. This has prompted the two parties to partner in efforts to insulate Kenyans from the syndicates that run these criminal operations. Investigations have confirmed that about 70% of the fraudsters are located within prison sites. Once the prison fraudsters defraud a customer, they either send the funds to their accomplices outside the prisons or send to their fellow inmates to disguise the trail of money and avoid a reversal being done.

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 been impersonating Safaricom/M-PESA 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.

Available figures indicate that Kamiti Prison is leading in originating mobile phone-related fraud cases with 65% of reported cases in the last 4 months alone. It is followed by Nakuru Prison with 15%, Meru Prison with 12%, Kibos with 1% and Shimo la Tewa with 6% of total cases reported. The month of July reported the highest number of cases with Kamiti accounting for over 15,000 incidents.