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Wangiri scam: How international scammers are targeting Kenyans using missed calls

The 'Wangiri' scam, which was first reported in 2018, has now resurfaced posing a significant threat to mobile phone users who may unknowingly fall victim to the scheme

File image of a man making a phone call

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has issued a warning about the resurgence of the notorious 'Wangiri' phone scam, which has been targeting unsuspecting Kenyans.

The scam involves receiving a call from an unknown international number that only rings once before hanging up. However, when the recipient calls back the number, their airtime is rapidly drained.

Initially reported in Kenya in 2018 after an alert from telecommunications company Safaricom, the CA, through its National Kenya Computer Incident Response Team Coordination Centre (National KE-CIRT/CC), has raised concerns about the scam making a comeback.

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In a statement to newsrooms on Friday, CA Director General Ezra Chiloba emphasized the deceptive nature of the scam

"The scam is designed to lure innocent and unsuspecting mobile phone users into returning the 'urgent' international calls, upon which they are unknowingly redirected to premium numbers that drain their credit," he stated.

The scammers employ a technique that keeps the caller connected by playing a recorded message during the call. This extended connection time allows the scammers to maximize their profits.

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Chiloba highlighted that post-paid subscribers may be unaware of the scam until they receive their monthly bills, while pre-paid subscribers can lose as much as their loaded credit.

He revealed that recent victims of the fraud have been receiving calls from illegally purchased numbers with prefixes originating from Peru (+51) and New Zealand (+64).

In response, the authority advises the public to exercise caution and avoid calling back any international numbers they do not recognize.

Chiloba urged victims to report the numbers to their service providers so that appropriate action can be taken to block them and prevent further victims from falling prey to the scam.

The 'Wangiri' scam, which originated in Japan, derives its name from the Japanese words 'wan' meaning 'one ring and cut' and 'giri' meaning 'hang up.'

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It has now resurfaced in Kenya, posing a significant threat to mobile phone users who may unknowingly fall victim to the scheme.

By being cautious and refraining from returning calls to unfamiliar international numbers, Kenyans can protect themselves from falling victim to the 'Wangiri' scam and other similar schemes.

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