Scamming has reached an all-time high in Zimbabwe. Ever since the beginning of 2021, there has been and there continues to be a serious spike in scamming activities. I even had to do some articles again to open up people’s awareness of these things. Last week I was chatting with a certain guy in town and he was recounting how that he had almost been scammed of around US$500. He then narrated how it had all happened; I did not quite grasp it but I recall it involved EcoCash and WhatsApp. A few days later I then realized that it is an ongoing scamming method because it has been abuzz on social media. That is my subject matter in this article.
US$100 Million Total In WhatsApp EcoCash Fraud
Reports are emerging that both EcoCash and WhatsApp accounts are being hacked. (I will get back to this later on in the article). Basically what is happening is that fraudsters are using stolen identities of people to dupe other people. A fraudster assumes the identity of someone who is generally trusted by the public. This leverages the common feature of WhatsApp groups where money changers advertise their rates daily. Thus it has always been a no brainer for someone to send such a person money (e.g. through EcoCash) in exchange for US dollar cash. When the fraudster successfully assumes the stolen identity and receive money from unsuspecting individuals they then vanish before making good on their end of the day. Most victims are easily gullible due to the alluring rates the fraudsters usually offer.
In a period covering just 2 months back, it is reported that people have been defrauded this way to a total tune of around US$100 million. This is only about cases that have been reported to the police otherwise it is quite possible the amount could be higher. Reports are saying that the fraudsters literally gain control of the stolen identity’s EcoCash and WhatsApp accounts. When this happens, the person loses network on their phone during which the perpetrator carries out their shenanigans. The police have since indicated that it is expedient that all hands be on deck as a robust solution is figured out and put in place to curb these scams.
EcoCash Issues A Public Notice
Following these recent developments, EcoCash recently issued a communique reading as follows:
“EcoCash is aware of reports of fraud, where unsuspecting EcoCash customers have lost money to criminals using false identities after they harvest customers’ phone numbers from social media platforms like WhatsApp. Econet wishes to assure the public and our valued customers that the EcoCash system has not been hacked and remains safe and secure. EcoCash urges customers to be vigilant against fraud by checking the identity of people they send money to and by not sharing their EcoCash PIN with anyone. EcoCash further urges customers to report all suspected cases of fraud to the police, or EcoCash through our SMS helpline 0771 222 114 or to EcoCash’s nearest channel partners…”
Let Us Discuss Some Things Here…
Hacking WhatsApp Accounts – Is It Possible?
Right off the bat, most people would say no, but truth is, it is possible. Quite a number of you have received a message like this, “Hello, Sorry, I sent you a 6-digit SMS code by mistake. Can you give it to me? This is urgent?” If ever you sent them back that code, just know you unawares gave them control of your WhatsApp account. Here is what most of you do not know, there is such a thing called Two-Step Verification on WhatsApp. If you go to your Settings on WhatsApp, then Account, then Two-step verification, you will probably notice that it is not enabled for some of you. You must enable it for your WhatsApp account to be more secure. If it is not enabled then you are vulnerable to being hacked. There is of course the end to end encryption aspect that WhatsApp prides itself in but knowing software is not infinitely impenetrable. What do you think?
Hacking EcoCash Accounts – Is It Possible?
Hmmm, this one I am not knowledgeable enough but EcoCash does say it is not possible. However, according to police reports, it is apparent there are people whose EcoCash accounts were hacked and controlled during the duration of the scams. Otherwise how then can you explain that someone had no record of any money being received into their EcoCash account yet the victim would have sent money to that account? This means the money is received and cleaned out which points to hacking. Ultimately the security of the EcoCash platform is somehow in question. I also know that most people’s EcoCash PINs are easy to figure out. That can somehow make it easier for hackers, I think. What do you think?
In light of everything the best thing to do is to be more vigilant. Before sending anyone money you must ascertain the identity of the said individual. At best you must physically meet with the intended recipient or maybe call them just to be sure. US$100 million is no joke and it is clear that most people are falling prey to these fraudsters. Like I usually say, be more aware!