Pay 100k to get back your Simcard - the new fraud by telecoms

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Pay 100k to get back your Simcard - the new fraud by telecoms
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NOT SATIRE | I've lost my Simcard. And it really hurts. Airtel says I can get back but at a fee good enough to feed my dogs for a week.

When you set up your Simcard like it is your identity and when it kind-of appears in your national digital data bank, losing it hurts.

But that is what Airtel have done to me. When they claimed that all Simcards needed verification, it looked like the usual case of a telecom losing client data and asking them to do fresh verification.

It is an annual thing so many subscribers wouldn't notice anything amiss. But this last mess by Airtel brought the reality home.

When they called for verification, my thumbprint was badly damaged from regular preparation of vegetables. Cutting goobe and such things has always left my fingerprint damaged.

After two visits to Airtel customer care centre on Main Street in Jinja - visits I took painfully due to the time it takes to lineup for the exercise - I gave up because each time the frustrated attendants would ask for the next person after failing to record the print for way too long.

For many, the verification issue is a painful one since it consumes a lot of time. And it appears like telecoms are aware of just that. The result is a shrewd game that fetches big money - for the telecoms.

When I finally got my thumbprint back and headed to Airtel customer care centre last month, they said the number had been taken out of service and could not be reactivated.

Having used identical Airtel and MTN numbers since I first bought a Ka-torch with that legendary 'living allowance' at the Hill, they had become part of my identity and this lady telling me it was gone was like a surgeon emerging from the theatre with that look to say, "Um, you see, I'm sorry, we tried our very best but we lost your her".

The only difference is that the surgeon would not be smiling, this lady with a kazigo and half-made dimple was smiling even as she announced the death of my 20-year-old DNA.

As I stood there feeling like a man in a morgue waiting to identify the body of his loved one, the lady returned.

"Actually, we can get you back this same number but you'll have to pay 100k first," she said.

"100k or 10k?" I said.


"Look, are you really saying 100k like in one-hundred-thousand?"

"Yes, 100k... (she now wrote it down for effective delivery).

My 0753970042,  my DNA for years, the one that held my WhatsApp, was gone. I wanted to tell her that I knew I was ugly but I did not look any closer to Otafiire for her to treat me like a minister's relative and ask for my kidney for a Simcard.

But then I chose the dignified exit: "Ha, I'm not a minister to pay 100k for a Simcard".

I contacted this guy at Airtel who swore upon every fallopian tube in maternity wards that this was not true. He said money was only paid for 'golden numbers' like 0752100000 or 0756777666 an such things.

On Monday, I walked into the service station at the former Shoprite - or is it called Clock Tower - and endured nearly an hour of queuing up before I got my chance.

After giving me a number that had nothing to do with my DNA, I said I needed a swap to my trusted baby. After checking, the lady behind the counter said it was not possible.

When I insisted I had got information from their own team that I could get my number back, she admitted it was true with TCA.

"Pay one of those figures and we will help you," she said, passing me a printout with rates for replacing what they called Silver (Shs60,000), Gold (Shs100,000) and Platinum (Shs250,000*) - the last figure I didn't even read well as I was already feeling so sick to my hairy armpit.

You guys, you need to make purchase of airtime a habit otherwise we will have more frequent Simcard verification demands where the telecoms know that certain folks are too busy to go and lineup, while others lost their ID etc.

So it is that when you cannot get it done because of your kitchen knife games, you would have to pay Silver, Gold or Platinum to get back your Simcard.

And you think it is only those organising Thanksgiving who are stealing from the wawansi? The technical fraud at telecoms sucks!

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