MTN to Fight MoMo Fraud with AI Infrastructure

Mtn Bt Business

Head of Products and Services at MobileMoney Limited (MTN MoMo), Sylvia Otuo-Acheampong has said that MTN Ghana is well on course with building the US$2.5 million artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure it promised in 2020 to fight mobile money fraud. 

She said such an infrastructure would require extensive regulatory and security inputs because the ownership has be a joint one for it to be effective. So, the Central Bank and the Ghana Police Service are checking to ensure all the necessary tools and mechanisms are intact before the infrastructure can be rolled out.

“Such an infrastructure requires some specific matrix are in place and that means the regulator and the security agencies have to come in and do an audit to ensure the right mechanisms and the right tools are in place to help curb fraud,” she stated.

Sylvia Otuo-Acheampong was speaking to journalists at the recently held MTN Business CTIO Roundtable Africa 2023.

At the first ever MTN Ghana virtual AGM (annual general meeting) in 2020, the  then CEO of MobileMoney Limited, Eli Hini stated that the company had earmarked some US$2.5 million to build an AI infrastructure to fight MoMo fraud.

According to him, the robot was being designed to crack down the social engineering tactics of MoMo fraudsters by picking up some specific signals based on some predictive information and mechanisms fed into it.

It is expected to be able to provide early warning to customers being targeted by fraudsters to help them escape the social engineering trappings of the fraudsters.

Techfocus24 gathered that a contract was awarded to an Indian company called Medallion to build the robot, after they had gone head to head with an US-based company called Fitz.

The AI tool has become necessary because fraudsters often pretend to be calling from MTN and they go on the back of that to lure unsuspecting customers into divulging their MoMo PINs or some other information that enables the fraudster to steal their moneys.

They often claim to be helping the customer to update their details or that the customer had won some money on MTN and they (the fraudster) needs the customer’s details to help him or her claim the award.

Sylvia Otuo-Acheampong said, ahead of the AI infrastructure, MTN has some internal mechanisms to protect customers from being defrauded, but those mechanisms lose their essence once the customer divulges his or her PIN to the fraudster.

She is there cautioning customers to ensure that under no circumstances would they mention their PINs to anyone, not even when the person claims to be calling from MTN.

“Don’t even continue any conversation with anyone who calls you with a random number and claims to be calling from MTN and then begin to engage you on some supposed prize you have won when you know you have not subscribed to any such thing on MTN,” she said.

SIM Swap fraud

A new form of fraud is the SIM swap, through which people gain access to a victims phone number and then go on the back of that to access other details of the customer to then steal their money.

Sylvia Otuo-Acheampong noted that SIM swap requires the involvement of telco staff and sometimes sanctioning the swap without following the due process to the letter, could be a genuine mistake on the part of the staff and not necessarily a sign that the staff is in cahoots with the fraudster.

She said, following the recent cases of SIM swap on MTN, which led to the theft of GHS4,000 and US$8,000 from one person’s Ecobank Account, plus another GHS250,000 from another person’s Ecobank Account, MTN is working on not just educating customers but staff as well to ensure these unfortunate incidents are avoided.

Currently, MTN MoMo has over 13 million customers, out of which some 400,000+ use digital channels like MyMTN and the MTN MoMo apps to transact on the platform, while over 12.6 million use USSD channels. MTN is currently working hard to drive the usage of the digital channel more, as it marches toward becoming a complete digital operator.

The company also has about 140,000 merchants (physical and online) who receive MTN mobile money payments from customers either face-to-face or remotely; about 15,000 PoS (point of sale) machines that also accept MTN mobile money payments, and about 250,000 agents who support digital payments across the country.

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