Plan International Malawi warns against cybercrimes: ‘Not issuing out any Covid-19 money’

Plan International Malawi says it has been made aware of phone calls being made falsely stating that its officials or associates “are giving out money for Covid-19,” and has since sternly warned the citizenry against fraudsters that as an institution they do not charge a fee to access any of its interventions, or request information via phone calls.

The severe warning comes following a message allegedly sent to someone from Airtel number 0996124662 claiming he was on the list of those that were on the list of receiving Covid-19 relief money and that they should call Rogers Siula – apparently Plan International Malawi communications and campaigns manager – on the very number.

Siula – Plan International Malawi Communications Manager

But 0996124662, Nyasa Times has confirmed, is not, and has never been Siula’s Airtel line.

In a statement issued on Friday, August 6, 2021, Plan International Malawi said the messages and calls were “fraudulent aimed at scamming people under the pretext of seeking to obtain money and/or in many cases personal details from the receivers.”

Reads the press release in part issued by Siula: “Plan International Malawi wishes to warn the public at large about these fraudulent activities being perpetrated purportedly in the of the organisation, and/or its officials, through different fraud schemes.

According to the statement, Plan International Malawi strongly recommends that the recipients of solicitations, such as these described above exercise extreme caution in respect of such solicitations.

It said financial loss and identity theft could result from the transfer of money or personal information to those issuing such fraudulent correspondence.

“We are working jointly with law enforcement agencies to track down culprits. We appeal to the public to be vigilantly cautious of such scams and also report them to their local law enforcement authorities for appropriate action,” the statement said.

Commenting on the same, Harry Mangulenje, a Malawian based in South Africa, said what was problematic was that the country was “not serious enough in effecting cyber-crime laws.”

In an effort to provide a regulatory framework for ICTs and address cybercrime, parliament in 2016 passed the Electronic Transactions and Cybersecurity Bill but Mangulenje argues that implementation has been scanty.

“The laws are weak,” said Mangulenje.

A former reporter, Siula, it was high time the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA), Ministry of Homeland Security and network providers TNM and Airtel Malawi upped their game in combating the vice.

“I believe the mandatory sim card registration clause was aimed at enhancing security, controlling abuse, scams and bullying, among others. It is not the first time that the public has cried out loud about scammers and fraudsters that either call or send messages that deceive people about prizes, money handouts etc. guising under the banner of different institutions,” Siula wrote on his Facebook page.

He wrote: “At one point in time, James Chavula and I carried out an investigation and Zomba Maximum Prison was identified to be a hot spot for these activities. Government knows, Malawi Prison knows, the Police know, Airtel and TNM (Telekom Networks Malawi) have this knowledge too.

“What is surprising is the inability to take an affirmative action and put a stop to this practice. Day in, day out, prisoners rake millions of kwachas from those poor subscribers who fall for such scams. Worryingly, the trend keeps growing.”

Nyasa Times has established that sometime last year Telekom Networks Malawi carried out a joint operation with the Malawi Prison at Zomba Prison and a prisoner was found with over 500 active SIM cards. Some prison warders were implicated in the chain as well.

“Please take action and end this once and for all. Prisoners, prison warders and agents registering these numbers and cashing out the money must be taken to task seriously. Richard Chimwendo Banda, MP – Minister can the entire security system of the Malawi Government really fail to crack down this and deal with it once and for all? No ways, some people are sleeping on their jobs. Who registers the sim cards? Who smuggles handsets to prisoners at a maximum-security institution? Which agents are used to withdraw the money? With the digital footprint, all this is easy to track and crack,” Siula opined.

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