Editor's Comment

Counter cybercrime vigilantly, timely

THE advent of information and communications technology (ICT), as good as it may be in transforming human interactions, has come with its own down side.
With the advancements in this technology, there has been an increase in sophisticated and cyber related crimes.
Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) and mobile service providers have just unearthed a scam in which fraudsters are using 28 mobile numbers (there could be more) to swindle members of the public by asking them to send money through mobile money platforms.
This comes a few months after another scam was exposed in which fraudsters were using fake Facebook accounts to swindle members of the public out of their hard-earned money.
As of August, ZICTA closed about 350 fake Facebook accounts most of which were in Government officials’ names, including that of the President.
An investigation in the mobile money scam by the Zambia Daily Mail revealed that the 28 numbers being used are registered with two mobile service companies with Airtel accounting for 22 and MTN, six.
Some of the numbers identified include 0970088258 registered under Boyd Patachongo, 0977533658, Nambela Mitali, 0977524738, Gravious Siame and 0977383306, Rachel Nambela.
The swindlers have been using these numbers among others to send text messages to unsuspecting mobile phone users which read: “I’m requesting you to send that money in this number of Airtel (0977383306) my number is not working thanks”.
Knowing very well that a lot of people are constantly transacting through money mobile platforms, swindlers couch their text messages in a way that deceives someone just about to send money somewhere.
It is unfortunate that some people have fallen victim to these scams losing their hard-earned money.
Kelvin Mambwe, a male nurse in Solwezi, was swindled out of K1,800 while Getrude Chisanga of Lusaka lost K200 which she thought she was sending to her younger sister.
There could be many more who have lost money this way, but do not desire to go public with their misfortune of being duped.
The police say that indeed a lot more people have been swindled, only that numbers need to be harmonised because other victims reported to the mobile service companies and ZICTA.
It is saddening that members of the public have continued falling prey to cybercrime.
The mobile scam is just one of the many ways swindlers are using to dupe unsuspecting members of the public.
Some people have lost money in an attempt to buy cars online, others have lost money through fake peer-to-peer investments on WhatsApp platforms. Still others have been duped through fake network marketing schemes.
This certainly points to the need for members of the public to be more vigilant as they interact on cyberspace.
As rightly observed by the ZICTA consumer protection and information manager Mofya Chisala, cyberspace fraudsters are certainly thriving on the ignorance of most Zambians.
The many victims of cybercrime also points to the fact that Zambians need to be security conscious as they interact and transact in the cyberspace.
Living in a digital era calls for mindset change in the way people behave and make decisions.
There is need for people to be more inquisitive and verify facts before engaging in any form of cyberspace transaction.
In the mobile money scam for instance, the victims could have called the proposed numbers to verify before sending money.
Perhaps this is a wakeup call for all, that in a digital era you cannot take things at face value.
It is also a lesson that personal information should not be shared indiscriminately.
Members of the public should scrutinise anyone asking for their personal data.
In this regard, mobile providers and many other entities entrusted with personal data for clients are also expected to observe the highest level of confidentiality and security.
The cyberspace crimes certainly validate the need for Government to also move quickly to ensure that the proposed Data Protection Bill is tabled in Parliament.
It is commendable that the police anti-fraud department has instituted investigations to arrest those behind the identified numbers in the mobile money scam.
Certainly those responsible must be brought to book without fail.
We therefore expect mobile phone service providers to avail more details such as National Registration Card numbers of individuals who own the identified numbers to expedite investigations.
Given these fraudsters thrive on ignorance, ZICTA should also up its game and create more awareness on cybercrime.
This will help people to be more security conscious in their interactions on the cyberspace.

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