When a loved one dies, families and friends mourn and get involved in organizing how they can give an honorable send-off for their beloved. People take time to slowly try to come to terms and plan a life ahead without their loved ones. Unbeknown to many mourners, fraudsters have now taken advantage of these trying times to expertly rob the dead.
When this story first broke, The Standard reported a case of fraudsters who had swept the late Reverend Kania’s bank accounts clean using his mobile phone. The Reverend passed on in July 2020 and as mourners including Deputy President William Ruto were condoling with the family, something strange was already in the offing.
14 days after the burial, the wife decided to switch on the late Reverend’s phone which had been off all along. That is when they realized that fraudsters had stolen over Sh3 million from his accounts and applied for a Sh500,000 loan.
The latest developments from the DCI now show that the fraudsters went further, and used the late Reverend Kania’s mobile phone to defraud yet another dead person. This time, they targeted Nairobi businessman Amos Ngata Muiruri who succumbed after a botched surgery in November 2020. Just a week after his burial, Ngata’s son realized that the dad’s phone, which he had been using for mobile banking had gone dead.
Upon reporting the matter to Safaricom, they were able to revert the line but by then, fraudsters had already stolen more than Sh2.8 million from the NCBA Bank mobile, Equity Bank’s Eazzy Banking app, and Cooperative Bank’s Mcoop Cash app. A visit to the banks revealed that the monies had been transferred to various accounts.
What puzzled detectives, even more, is that the mobile number associated with the fraud was the registered line of the late Reverend Kania. After sweeping Kania’s accounts clean, the fraudsters were now using his number to defraud the late Ngata and many other unsuspecting Kenyans.
The DCI says that the syndicate targets wealthy individuals who have placed obituaries in the papers. They target phone lines belonging to the elderly and those who have traveled abroad.
“The telephone lines of those that fall in that category have minimal chances of raising suspicion. They normally strike soon after the person dies and before the family establishes the exact wealth in the deceased’s bank account,” the DCI says.
The fraudsters are said to conduct sim swaps to hijack the victims’ phone numbers which they use to access personal data and bank accounts through mobile banking apps. With a broad network spread all the way to the National Registrar of Persons, they obtain information including ID numbers and date of birth which are required to register the line.
They then call the service providers pretending to be the deceased, and request to replace a “lost” line. As is the norm, the mobile providers will request information such as ID number and date of Birth which the fraudsters are already privy of. Common practice also indicates that more people use the last digits of their dates of birth or ID as their PIN numbers. This makes it easy for scammers to access mobile banking apps and transfer funds within a short period of time.
They then access financial accounts and transfer the funds to other scammed telephone numbers which are switched off after the operation. This is meant to frustrate any efforts by detectives to track them down.
The DCI has arrested five suspects who will be charged at the Milimani law courts today as they investigate further. Among them are a former bank employee and a clerk working at the National Registration Bureau in connection with the bank withdrawals.