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Nigerians, beware of scam offering mobile data to users with older Airtel SIM cards

IN SHORT: Africa Check recently debunked a scam offering free data to MTN customers with older SIM cards. Like those Facebook posts, these doing the rounds on WhatsApp and Facebook and promoting free data for Airtel users, are out to mine customers’ personal details.

Airtel, a mobile network operator in Nigeria, is rewarding owners of old SIM cards with free data, according to a message circulating on WhatsApp.

The message has also been posted to Facebook.

A subscriber identity module, or SIM, card is a smart card that stores a user’s identity and connects a mobile device to a cellular network.

The message says those with a six-months-old Airtel SIM card will receive five gigabytes (GB) of data, while those with a SIM card one year or older will receive 10GB.

Airtel Networks Limited is one of the country's top telecom service providers and is headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial hub. 

But is the company giving free data to customers with old SIM cards?


Suspicious looking website

The posts on WhatsApp and Facebook share the same link to a suspicious-looking website. They do not link to the official website of the telecom company.

Customers are asked to input their phone numbers on the website. We entered a non-Airtel number and it still went through. This is a red flag. Every major telecommunication network in Nigeria has a distinctive four-digit code in their phone numbers. 

Next we received a prompt asking us to “share” the link to the Facebook post to five other groups or 15 friends on WhatsApp in order to activate the data gift. This is yet another red flag. 

The website also lists comments from supposed beneficiaries, but it’s not possible to verify their profiles. This points to it being engagement bait, where scammers try to drive traffic to a certain website by tricking internet users with nonexistent offers.

We also found no evidence of such airtime giveaway on the official website and the verified social media handles of the telecoms company. 

Africa Check debunked a similar claim spreading on Facebook earlier in July 2023. It promised free data to those with older MTN SIM cards, but was otherwise identical.

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