• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Unused bank-linked phone numbers at risk

Unused bank-linked phone numbers at risk

You can lose your bank’s USSD access after about a year of not using the phone number linked to your bank account.

This is because inactive phone numbers are reassigned to new users after almost a year of inactivity. This gives new subscribers access to all the services the old subscribers were linked to, including financial services.

In a recent email to its customers, Access Bank noted that customers risk losing USSD access after 90 days of inactivity and that phone numbers linked to a customer’s account may be reassigned to new users after this period of inactivity.

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“In the event that you have relocated or have an old inactive mobile number linked to your account, please let us know immediately to discontinue SMS alerts and our *901# channel on your phone number,” it said.

It advised bank customers to notify their telecom provider to ensure that the mobile number linked to their bank account is not reassigned to new users in case of inactivity.

“You can also update your new phone number with us to keep your account safe and forestall unauthorised access to your funds,” it added.

In 2020, the Nigerian Communications Commission revealed that telecommunications companies have the right to reassign SIM cards that have been inactive for a maximum of 180 days. This was said against the backdrop of the arrest of Anthony Okolie, a Delta-based trader whom the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested for using a SIM previously owned by Hanan Buhari, the president’s daughter.

The NCC at the time said, “If we must change and extend the validity period of SIM cards from 180 days, it has to be deliberated upon by all stakeholders and captured in the regulatory policy of the NCC.”

A telecom expert explained to BusinessDay that it takes 12 months of inactivity before telcos reassign a number.

“During the first six months of inactivity, a number enters the dormant state. All the subscriber needs to do at this stage is to recharge the line. But once it enters another six months of inactivity, making one year, telcos will reassign the number.”

USSD services have gone in leaps and bounds since it gained prominence in 2016, improving mobile transactions in the country. According to GSMA, nine in ten mobile money transactions in Nigeria are done through USSD.

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GSMA said, “Notably, nine in 10 mobile money transactions in Sub-Saharan Africa still flow through USSD. Specifically, USSD has proved to be a useful tool in dealing with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

During the 20th anniversary of the telecommunications revolution in Nigeria, the Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr Ebenezer Onyeagwu, emphasised, “The introduction of USSD changed everything.”