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Iraqis love their mobiles & payments, but there’s a downside

When we asked the people of Jaffna what good came of the ceasefire of 2002-05, they said phones and the opening of the road connecting them to the rest of Sri Lanka. Looks like the Iraqis are similar. I love my mobile like a baby, says on Iraqi mother. De facto m-payments are also significant, though there are some problems, according to the Economist.

Criminal rings are among the parallel currency’s busiest users. Kidnap gangs ask for ransom to be paid by text messages listing a hundred or more numbers of high-value phone cards. Prostitutes get regular customers to send monthly retainers to their phones, earning them the nickname “scratch-card concubines”, while corrupt government officials ask citizens for $50 in phone credit to perform minor tasks. Viewed as cash substitutes, scratch cards have also drawn the attention of armed robbers. In one case, a gang emptied out the card storage of Iraq’s biggest mobile operator, Zain, which is based in neighbouring Kuwait.

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