Standardizing client ID will reduce crime in the Mobile money industry

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By Alexander Nyarko Yeboah

July 28,—The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) has asked African countries to go for a more reliable means of identification as a way of dealing with the numerous crimes that are associated with mobile fraud on the continent.

An INTERPOL report said, “…a lack of robust identity checks to verify users combined with a need for greater law enforcement resources and training on mobile money-enabled crimes have created a financial system distinctly vulnerable to criminal infiltration.”

This was made known when on Friday chanced upon an INTERPOL report issued on the 6th of July 2020 under the title: Criminals infiltrating Africa’s booming mobile money industry.

The report indicated that the mobile money industry “has proven to be a positive force for financial inclusion and economic development in many African countries, and that a more cash-based informal economy can sometimes present even graver challenges to law enforcement.”

INTERPOL observed that the type of ID required to register for a mobile money account are not standardized across Africa and documents accepted included national identity cards, company IDs, tax certificates, and drivers licenses.

The report observed that while such a broad range of acceptable IDs assisted the growth of mobile money services, it also increased their vulnerability to fraud, money laundering and other crimes.

This, according to INTERPOL, is made worse because, despite progress in conviction rates for mobile money-enabled crimes, “the technical expertise and equipment required to complete investigations can prove difficult to integrate into the court process.”

The report indicated that with mobile money set for even greater growth in Africa, unless the vulnerabilities are addressed, these services posed a significant threat to consumers and national security.

INTERPOL observed that Smartphone user rates in Sub-Saharan Africa alone are projected to rise from roughly 39 per cent today to 66 per cent. Higher Smartphone adoption, combined with a wider array of mobile money services on offer, will likely increase the number of transactions performed through Smartphone apps, the report said.

`“The evidence shows that criminals are already exploiting mobile money services in Africa. The anonymity that these services too often allow the technical nature of the industry also present a challenge to law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting these crimes,” said Cyril Gout, INTERPOL Acting Director of Operational Support and Analysis.

Mr. Gout emphasized that the need to act was now and that if the players addressed the vulnerabilities, “We can ensure that the mobile money industry continues to grow throughout Africa without being compromised by those who seek to undermine it.”

The ‘Mobile money and organized crime in Africa’ report by INTERPOL presents an overview of the criminal exploitation of mobile money services, including fraud, money laundering, extortion, human trafficking and people smuggling, the illegal wildlife trade and terrorism.

The African continent is the leader in the mobile money industry, accounting for nearly half of all registered mobile money accounts globally.

This prominent role mobile money plays in African economies and the rapid pace at which its infrastructure has been developed, has enabled criminals to “exploit weaknesses in regulations and identification systems” and commit mobile money-enabled crimes, the report said.

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