Fraudsters responsible for the identity thefts that allowed them access to WhatsApp groups and EcoCash accounts of others to con people into foreign currency deals had not hacked into the phones of those whose identities they assumed, as originally suspected, but instead had persuaded Econet that they were the legitimate line holders, had lost their SIM cards and were issued replacements.
This non-tech way of stealing identity was uncovered by police as they investigated, and has already led to the arrest of two men on charges of pulling off the double con of first getting a replacement SIM card in another’s name and then using this assumed identity to con others.
The method used explains why the original SIM cards of those whose identities were stolen went dead, as Econet automatically cancels the previous SIM card when they issue a replacement and the EcoCash account is transferred to the old number on the new card.
This has been the standard system when, for example, a phone is stolen or dropped in a lake or otherwise lost.
But Econet normally want the number of the police report of the lost or stolen SIM card and are required to demand ID before issuing the new card.
Now the police, following up from this clue of how the frauds were done, have arrested two suspects on allegations of fraudulently applying for a SIM replacement card belonging to another person before using the seized mobile number to dupe several people of cash.
Leeman Mushayi (26) and Prince Kadzungwe (41) were arrested after several cases of fraud in Harare. It is alleged that the two approached an Econet Wireless shop where they “successfully” applied for a SIM-card replacement belonging to the victim.
They then restored her WhatsApp and started advertising on social media groups, especially those she belonged to and whose other members trusted her, saying she was dealing in foreign currency and offering good rates.
Several people responded and were defrauded of cash mostly in United States dollars.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said investigations were still in progress and police were keen on others hit by the same trick, both those whose lines went dead and the victims of con artists, to come forward and report. Members of the public who might have fallen victim to the suspects can report at any nearest police station or the ZRP national complaints desk on 024 2703631.
Police are uncovering other frauds and making arrests.
Last week they arrested a suspect on allegations of duping several people of thousands of US dollars after making them believe he could secure employment for them in the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe National Army and other Government departments.
Dovan Tshikubadzo Ncube (60) allegedly had been duping others after conning them that he could facilitate travelling and national identity documents.
The suspect used a WhatsApp number 077 333 1166 to contact unsuspecting victims while impersonating some high ranking government officials.
The police and the army have been urging the public to be wary of fraudsters who might lure them into believing that they can secure employment for them within the security services and Government departments since such recruiting is now done openly without intervention.