Airtel Uganda found itself in a pickle when one of its clients released a video that ended up becoming viral within a short period of time as it called into question the integrity of the company as well as the security of their Airtel Money services platform.
The video, which was circulated within days of release was done by one of Airtel’s own clients named Bukenya Henry who shared his story about how his Airtel Money account was robbed of 7 million shillings and later lost 5 million shillings even after his SIM card had been blocked.
In the viral video, Mr. Bukenya encourages other Airtel customers to reach out and tell their stories so that the company takes an affirmative step in preventing what happened to him from happening to others. He also claimed that there have been several other reports of similar incidents and he wants the telecom giant to take responsibility and action.
According to Mr. Bukenya, Airtel Money isn’t a secure platform as we had been led to believe. In the video, he shared his story about an incident that occurred on the 11th of November 2021 at about 12:30 pm after someone broke into his car and stole his phone. Realising what had happened, he rushed to the nearest mobile money agent and reached out to customer care to have his line blocked.
However, before the SIM card could be blocked, 7 million shillings had been withdrawn from his account within a space of an hour. He also later revealed that Airtel was able to block the SIM card following the incident and went as far as to confirm that it had been done by visiting one of the closest customer care centres where he has given a statement.
In his video testimony, at 12:57 pm he had lost 1 million by 1:06 p.m. Later on, 900,000 shillings had been withdrawn, and at 1:13 pm another 800,000. He goes on to reveal that the bad actors continued to withdraw money from the account and took another 700,000 shillings at 1:21 pm, and finally at 1: 27 pm, 3 million was withdrawn.
But here’s where things get very interesting. According to Mr. Bukenya, even after his line had been blocked and informed by Airtel to wait for three days to have it re-activated, somehow his line including his mobile money account was activated again and an extra 3.75 million shillings was withdrawn from the same account.
He also claimed that the responsible actors were able to withdraw money from his company account and even take on a loan from the same line.
Is Airtel Money really secure?
The biggest question posed by Mr. Bukenya was whether the Airtel Money services platform is secure at all. Even after the telecom had informed him that his line had been blocked and was to wait for three days until it was re-activated, the bad actors were able to unblock the line without his consent and still gain access to his mobile money account.
The viral video also exposes are very crucial question, how were the people responsible able to gain access to Mr. Bukenya’s line without his consent and still affect transactions on it? Secondly, who were these bad actors that were able to have his SIM card unblocked and replaced using his image and National ID details without his knowledge while under Airtel’s own roof?
“Are you still secure? Are you securing our money? Because Airtel Money doesn’t seem to understand what is going on. I am calling all the people that have the same problem as mine. My number is 0756392570, please come, we actually address this problem as a team. I think this time, we’ll know, we are not safe.” Mr. Bukenya concluded in the video.
In response to the video, Airtel released the statement alleging the fraud and loss suffered by Mr. Bukenya;
Our attention has been drawn to a video circulating on social media by Mr. Henry Bukenya, our customer alleging fraud and loss of his money. We would like to clarify with the following observations
1. Mr. Bukenya lost his phone, and his PIN, known only to him, was used to withdraw money from his Airtel Money account before he reported the matter to us on 10th November 2021.
2. We immediately BLOCKED the line. Unfortunately, due to connivance, Mr. Bukenya lost some money.
3. The matter was fully investigated, and appropriate compensation was made to Mr Bukenya for the loss attributable to Airtel.
4. On 18th February 2022, Mr. Bukenya acknowledged receipt of the same, and the matter was closed.
5. The connivance was reported to police and appropriate action taken on the person involved.
6. The details were also reported to the sector regulator, Bank of Uganda.
We would like to reassure our customers that The Airtel Money Platform security remains our top priority and shall be kept as such.
We urge all our customers to NEVER share their PINs with anyone.
In case of any issues, kindly contact us at our call centre number 100 from your Airtel phone.
Airtel Mobile Commerce Uganda Limited (AMCUL)
With fraud cases continuing to grow in Uganda, there’s a growing suspicion that some of the cases such as those of Mr. Bukenya are carried out within the telecom companies themselves by employees who have unrestricted access to client data and other details.
As telecommunication companies endeavour to inform their clients on a daily basis not to share their passwords and other details through SMS, adverts and other means, one still wonders what they are doing to ensure that insiders don’t take advantage of their platforms.
If you have a story to share about your ordeal with mobile money services, go ahead and do so in the comment section.
Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana has a taste for all kinds of topics and usually writes about tech, entertainment, sports and community projects that make a difference in society.