Benson Kariuki of 0723587757. He stole money from me and is absolutely confident that I will never find him.

#MPesatheft is rampant in Kenya and there seems to be no way to stop it. Safaricom previously implemented automatic transaction reversals when a customer reported  having sent money to the wrong number, but our ingenious thieves then started recalling money they had paid to merchants and Safaricom had to stop the service. The thugs won….I don’t think so!!!

BECAUSE,  you and I are about to do something about this menace.

You have, at least once, sent money to the wrong number. Before this incident, I had too. I accidentally bought someone phone credit worth 200/-. I texted said person and asked them politely to return the money. I got no reply, and at the time, felt that there was nothing I could do. Besides, I had heard of people losing 15000/-, 20,000/-, money they desperately needed for medical emergencies or school fees. 200/- did not seem like much then.

But last Sunday when I accidentally sent several thousands to a number belonging to one Benson Kariuki, my stomach fell to my feet. This wasn’t 200/-.  I immediately called the MPesa line provided by Safaricom. Please give me a moment to bash the stupidity of our largest telecom. SOOOOO SO STUPID SAFARICOM. While my money was laying in some stranger’s account, Safaricom’s robot lady was telling me about all the services she can offer. Took two tries to get through to customer care, where again I had to provide a list of details before the young man on the line declared, “Sorry Madam, inaonekana amesha-withdraw.”

I remember shouting, “What? what? what?” as the young man calmly (and might I add, insensitively) asked if there was anything else he could do for me and then hang up unceremoniously.

Ten minutes. Ten small minutes, is all the time it took Benson Kariuki to run to the nearest MPesa agent and withdraw money he knew was not his. And all Safaricom could say to me was go to the police and report the theft, they know what to do. Can the police find Benson Kariuki? Please raise your hand if you think this possible?

At this juncture, you must be wondering, “What the hell CAN WE DO, Makena?” We can stop being victims and start sharing this post like a problem. It is time we said NO, and created our own protection system against MPesa theft.

In Kenya, we are at the mercy of MPesa thieves, pickpockets, muggers, the police, the city council etc. We are hard at the business of bargaining with various kinds of thieves. The matatu conductors who somehow forget to give back your change until you ask for it with a stern face; the government employees who need a small “thank you” for providing a copy of the one piece of paper you need to fill; the guys who “help” you push your car when you are stuck somewhere; the armed robber who rapes your daughter and wife and draws a gun to blow your brains away and last but not least, our elected officials who threaten to paralyze our country if we don’t pay them such and such amount.

Are you tired of bargaining with thieves? I am. After that unhelpful phonecall with Safaricom, I texted the following to Benson Kariuki at his number 0723587757

I am giving you one hour to return the money you just withdrew illegally from my account. After that I will report your details tot he police, Just you wait…

I then called Safaricom and asked for his ID number. And of course, they said no, which is good because I know my privacy is equally protected. But I already had an idea. My second text to Benson Kariuki read:

Counting down. After reporting you to the police, I will put your details on twitter and facebook. Then I will make a youtube video and make sure you can’t get a job or do business anywhere. Someone who knows you will eventually bring me to your house. Hide somewhere deep my friend. Very deep.

This was the text that got Benson, who had previously switched off his phone, to call me back. He was pissed off. Very. I mean, I had made a mistake, sending him my money, so why had I not called him and politely asked that he return it??? What? Guy, you went and stole my money then switched off your phone. Hello, did you hear the part “You stole my money.” He said he would think about returning it and hang up.

He called again and shouted and hang up at least 3 times before he finally sent me part of the money, claiming that the rest had been deducted by Safaricom Customer Care. I did call Safaricom again to confirm that this was not the case. A different young man said to me, ” He has returned that much, you are okay, you should be happy. Many of them never return it.” I gave him an earful of msomo. So this is the attitude at Safaricom–good to know…

No, as I said to Benson, I am not satisfied with recovering part of my money. I want every single last cent back. And this is non-negotiable and should be non-negotiable for all of us.

My last text to Benson Kariuki was a clear explanation of the consequences of having his name on social media:

These charges you are claiming Safaricom has withdrawn do not exist. I have spoken to customer care. I want back all my money. And be warned that once your name starts circulating on social media, I won’t be able to stop it. You will end up on T.V. and radio.

Benson’s response, and I quote: “Do whatever you want. Let’s see what you can do.”

What can I do? What can you do? Share this post with your Kenyan friends and encourage them to share with their friends.

Benson Kariuki lives in Kenya, and Kenya isn’t that big. We have to find him, we absolutely must. This will be a signal to him and to all others like him, who have at one point or another committed MPesa theft, that there is no anonymity in the crowd. Someone who knows someone who knows someone you know, also knows Benson Kariuki of 0723587757. Let’s show him and others like him that we can do something about MPesa theft. Every share of this post will

  1. establish a CITIZENS’ protection system against mobile transfers fraud. Henceforth, you’ll only have to post the name and number of your MPesa thief on social media, and he/she  will be found.
  2. send Safaricom a strong signal that it must find a viable system of protecting its clients from theft. (Something as simple as letting our mobile phones pick up the recipient’s name in that last check before we hit send for MPesa).

DO SOMETHING about MPesa theft. Turn Benson Kariuki into a hashtag by sharing this post with your friends. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any thoughts about MPesa theft. Or join the facebook group Project Mpesa Thief

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