January 4, 2023

Cashless policy and need to track internet fraudsters

Cashless policy and need to track internet fraudsters

THE cashless policy introduced in by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is without doubt a step in the right direction given that it is aimed at scaling up financial inclusion and reducing cases of armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism financing, advance fee fraud, graft, ransom payment, extortion, and other crimes. 

Facilitating this laudable policy are 900,000 POS terminals, 14,000 ATMs, and 1.4 million agents nationwide. Remarkably, Nigerians have embraced the CBN’s cashless policy, as evident in the way electronic transactions have grown in recent years. POS transactions have grown from N48 billion annually in 2012 to N6 trillion today. Similarly, the value of electronic transfers have also grown from N3 trillion in 2012 to N300 trillion as at October 2022—a 7,000 per cent increase. 

The cashless policy is further complemented by mobile phone penetration in Nigeria, which stands at 152 million subscribers, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly either, those who habitually seek to reap where they did not sow are taking undue advantage of the electronic payment revolution in Nigeria to hack into people’s bank accounts and steal their monies. In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in the number of hackings into people’s accounts and withdrawing money via POS.

The most shocking aspect of it all is that when victims of these cyber criminals furnish the banks and the police with all the necessary evidence and information needed to catch these thieves, nothing is ever done about it. The usual story the bank tells the victim is that the transaction was done at a POS terminal and, therefore, cannot be traced. 

There have even been instances where victims recorded the voice of the criminal and furnished the bank and the police with the recorded voice and phone number the fraudster used to perpetrate the fraud, yet neither the bank nor the police could use the information to trace the criminal. 

If the banks that maintain custody of the victim’s money cannot work with the police, using the vital information supplied, to arrest the criminal, of what use then is the much-vaunted linkage of the Subscriber Identification Module, SIM, with the National Identity Number, NIN, carried out recently by NCC?

The CBN has continued to claim that it has an active consumer protection department that is looking at the issues of fraud and cybersecurity. We also urge it to look into the possibility of enacting legislation that will require banks to collaborate with Police and telecom providers in order to use vital information such as criminals’ phone numbers to catch them. These things are not rocket science.

Criminals all over the world are traceable through the GSM phone numbers used in crimes, more especially when they continue to use those phone lines to commit crimes. Nigeria can no longer afford to continue to be a country where things that work seamlessly in other countries cannot work here.

 If the issue of hacking people’s bank accounts is not tackled, it will weaken the laudable cashless policy of the CBN.