I have never been really been a victim of identity theft at a serious level. Not credit cards, not debit cards and certainly not SIM card theft. In that regard I’m lucky and forever grateful seeing that like many other people, my communication and financial lives are centered around my SIM card.

I’ve received strange texts alright. One of them being a laughable ‘tuma pesa saa hii ama utafura tumbo kama so and so’. I’ve also severally received those short ‘tuma kwa hii number’ and ‘mtoto ameumwa na nyoka’ texts and the calls where someone says they’ve sent money to my number by mistake and could I please send it back. But I have never really fallen victim to theft or impersonation.

That however does not mean that I cannot vividly imagine the absolute anger and frustration that comes with identity theft, and the anguish that comes with untangling oneself from it. I’ve read of people’s experiences online and they sound quite scary. The thing with SIM identity theft is that fraudsters can either steal from you or place you in a position where you’re the suspected criminal. A SIM card can plant you at a crime scene, tie you to a kidnapping or throw you into a countrywide syndicate that you know nothing about. It can also get you unknowingly listed under CRB when a fraudster takes loans in your name.

SIM card fraudsters have been known to go as far impersonate their victims and defraud people through mobile banking, M-pesa, extortion. Some will not even steal, but harass and threaten their victims.

The long and short of it is that once someone has your identity, there’s a whole lot of things they can do and they’ll make you look like the instigator. Many have gotten away with this in the past.

None of these scenarios is pleasant but what I would personally fear most is being investigated for murder, or have ATPU on my back for terrorism.

In a major move towards protection from fraud, Safaricom is giving an option to its customers to not only stop these criminals from registering a SIM card under their (customers’) names, but to also escalate any cases to the security teams for investigations. This is a long awaited and long requested partnership between Safaricom and its customers and it is most welcome. It is just one phase in a long term anti-fraud campaign by Safaricom and more features are coming in the future.

How does this work?

When someone tries to register a SIM card, they will receive a text from the number 707 by Safaricom, and he/she can confirm with a simple tap whether they’re the ones trying to register. A yes from the customer helps keep them safe, and a no helps Safaricom to not only stop that process but to also flag that number and forward it to the investigations team.

If the customer’s number is off air at the time someone tries to register and therefore cannot receive and react to that notification from 707, then the new registration will fail.

Should a customer have multiple lines already registered, the 707 message will go to the one that is most active, and which is tied to their ID and M-pesa transactions.

As this is going on, Safaricom customers who wish to know whether their numbers have been registered by anyone other than themselves should call 100 to get that information.

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