The mobile phone plays a critical role in the lives of people in Kenya, just like in many other developing countries. Access to financial services, the internet, and money transfer largely depends on a mobile phone.

All this makes a SIM card an important identifier for many people.

A typical Kenyan holds more than one SIM card. This is necessitated for different reasons. It could be the possession of a dual SIM card phone or multiple phones, the need for different calling tariffs, compensating for varying network reception, enjoying a friendly data tariff or 4G network, access to banking services, or work.

SIM card fraud

This behavior has led to the emergence of SIM card fraud where fraudsters register SIM cards using someone's details. They will then go ahead and use the SIM card and the digital trail they leave behind will point to you.

The trend started in the early days when SIM card registration was not mandatory. However, even after the government required SIM registration, the initial process was not foolproof. All that was needed was an identity card, and those doing the registration did little to ascertain the holder of the card was the actual person whose details appeared on the identity card. The details were captured on a piece of paper.

With time, the SIM card registration process changed and details were captured using an app. Visual proof was needed, where the person registering the SIM card had to have their passport photos captured.

The telecommunications companies then went ahead to attempt to notify you via SMS if an additional SIM card was getting registered in your name.

A layer of security

Recently, telecommunications companies have added yet another layer of security, one which allows Kenyans to check all the phone numbers registered under their name. By dialing *106#, one can see the SIM cards registered under their ID number, and even report numbers that are fraudulently registered.

The service makes it easy to know if there is someone impersonating you or using a SIM card that is registered under your name.

This will go a long way in reducing SIM-related fraud, and make the mobile experience better for Kenyans. The evolution has been slow, but the steps taken are ensuring Kenyans are safe as they go online, transact on mobile money, and use their mobile phones.

— By Jacob Mugendi

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