It is a beautiful morning and the rays of sunshine are forcing themselves between the two curtains and suddenly my phone rings.
The number 0889553111 registers. Some intuition tells me it is a strange number. I pick it anyway. It is not in me to reject calls.
In a slightly Lomwe accented Chichewa, the man on the other end announces that he is calling from TNM customer centre. He wants to know if I am enjoying their service.
I politely say that I am except for the too-many invasive SMS messages announcing all manner of promotions.
Rapport well established, the man gladly advises that he would show me how to opt out after he finishes with the business at hand.
He then besieges me with a litany of questions including whether I used my national ID to register my number.
While we talk, I receive a message from Mpamba. The man prompts me to read the message. I do.
It contains a code for self-service SIM swap. There is a preface to that message which clearly states that the code should not be shared; not even with any employee of TNM.
To my sheer dismay, the caller asks me to read out the code. Being a tech junkie that I am, I read out to him just the first two numbers. He becomes desperate and demands the rest of it.
He asks me to take my time, write the number and read it out. I respond by cutting the line.
The man persists and calls twice. Being well aware that I had been in some conversation with some devil incarnate, there was no point to continue.
What shall we say about this? There are basically two tech issues here.
Number one is that these fraudsters probably work with some bad apples at service providers. Look, the code that I got for self SIM swap could only have come from a TNM server. That is where they are generated.
It could also be that these fraudsters hack into TNM’s or Airtel’s system and that amounts to a serious breach of security. But I have my doubts on that.
What would have happened if I had given the impostor my number? He would have taken hostage of my number by activating a SIM swap. He would have probably continued to access my mobile money accounts.
Again, these guys need information about my mobile money transactions from somebody working at the service provider.
Wait, don’t we have passwords for our mobile accounts? The thing is that most people use their year of birth as the password for their mobile money account. Why not? It is a memorable day.
It is for that reason that the swindler wanted to know if I used my National ID to register my SIM card.
The philosophy of this story is that there will always be ‘fraudsters’ working for service providers assisting outside charlatans.
Protect yourselves by having water-tight passwords for your mobile money accounts and whenever you fool a fraudster like I did, send me a thank-you note.