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Kenyan supermarkets asked to rethink mobile money payments verification

A Kenyan shopper has illustrated how dangerous shouting out your cellphone number after a mobile money payment at the supermarket can be.

The twitter user explained how he once searched a number that a customer shouted at the till and got to know her name, former school, work place and residence.

The user started his narration by tagging the particular outlet where he got the customer’s number and went on changing the personal details as he urged the supermarkets to reconsider their verification method.

One of the supermarkets mentioned replied to the conversation promising to make mobile money payments less intrusive.

Here is the user’s narration:

“Yesterday, at (a supermarket) I figured out how easy it is for bad people to get a hold of personal details. Its scary. I actually practically picked someone’s identity and got to know a hell of a lot about them – all within 10 minutes! Let me tell you how… I was standing next to this lady she had to give out her number to the cashier… “0722… 000… 000” (not exactly obviously). It was an easy number to remember so I memorised it and typed it into my Truecaller and voila! I know her name & email! So then I google her. From her Facebook account, I know she went to Precious Blood Kilungu, I know her birthday, that she lives/lived in Ruaka, from her twitter her middle name and that she is in a relationship with “Sam” (not his real name).

“From her instagram I gather she loves the @SafaricomPLC Jazz Festival, find out who her closest friends are, and the places she likes to go hang out in the evening and from her Linkedin I have her CV – she is in the hotel industry and I know where she works. I know she went to Strathmore after Precious Blood, that she is a CPA… All this information, I found while I was standing next to her at the supermarket on my phone (!!!) Now you tell me, if I was a bad person, what could I have done with her information?


“I think we need to pay attention to how our private info is passed around in some of these places if I pay by MPESA I have to tell them my number in full hearing of everyone. If I need a supermarket to deliver something to my house, I draw a map to my house, and write my phone number on a piece of paper (and I never see it again) – Based on actual event. When depositing at an MPESA place, I have to say my number out loud (!) – Shida.”

Other tweeps commented on their experiences with one admitting that he actually picked up a customer’s number at the till and went on befriend her via Facebook.

He wrote, “Once did that at a supermarket, searched her name on Facebook got her .I inboxed her one two times and finally got to be friends.”

One wrote, “It has always bothered me how you have to give your number out loud to the cashiers. Then they repeat it back to you.”

Another added, “True, this is truly scary. That’s why ceased enrolling for loyalty program at clothing stores, supermarkets & the rest. I only need to pay & go. No information given… this is dangerous.”

One stated, “This is so scary… The supermarket guys say I’m rude when I tell them to check their damn phones. I won’t shout my phone number to the world.”