How Airtime Scratch Cards Works

While it has primarily been impossible to guess telephone service providers’ airtime scratch cards 16-digits, get it right, and get yourself some free airtime, it has been the center of conspiracy theories and one of life’s greatest miseries.

How it is almost impossible to randomly guess just 16 digits, what security features they actually use and many more such questions have intrigued many users.

Scratch card usage is common nowadays. Statistics show that at least 1 in 3 Kenyans own a mobile phone, which could increase to 89% service coverage in less than 10 years.

Almost everyone has at one point wondered if they could just up and break the Safaricom scratch cards code one day and earn themselves some free airtime.

Is it even possible to crack or guess scratch card digits?

Based on an analysis of around 448 Safaricom scratch cards, software engineers noticed a trend that the 16-digits codes followed.

Safaricom recently extended the number of digits of its scratch cards from 12 to 16 to make them more secure, and increase the time and reduce the chances one would take to crack the code, if they even stand a chance, to begin with.


The high number of mobile service users could mean huge losses for telcos should people be able to crack the code of security underlying scratch card technology.

This means strict safety measures are placed to protect the secret code. Anyone who tries to guess or crack this could be charged and fined.

How it works and why it can’t be guessed.

Each digit of the scratch cards has relevance to its position. It’s basically a data set with 16 variables, each holding the positional value of the digits in addition to a column that indicates the sum of the digits.

Mapping the total figures show the digits are actually randomly selected and placed. Within the digits is a pair that is linearly or otherwise dependent. There is a relationship between the 3rd and 6th digits that is based on a linear equation.

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For example, if the 3rd number in the scratch card is greater than zero, then the 6th number is the 3rd number minus one. If the 3rd number is zero, then the 6th number would be 9.

This is just the coding trend for just the 3rd and 6th numbers, it is either very impossible to guess the coding trend for the rest 14 digits, or they are just yet to, by which time the security features will have necessitated the addition of the digits to even 18 or 20.

Conspiracy theorists suggest if actually one could crack the code, their phones would be blocked, they could be charged or it would only work for one lucky time and person.

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