When the eldest of my sisters decided to move out at 23, she was exhilarated. She was going to move to a house in Eastleigh (Back then, pirate cash had not quadrupled its population), or more correctly, a room. She had found the house on an ad in the papers, and when she left to go pay rent, she was sure she was now free to be her own girl. A few hours later she was back home, crying on my mother’s lap, conned out of her first KShs. 12, 000 attempts to complete freedom. It was a ‘normal’ swindle, two con artists, a man and a woman, the man was the spotter, and the woman was the ‘manager/agent’. The transaction took place in front of a building that was still under construction, and then they told her to wait as they got her the key, and they disappeared. When she tried to follow them, she found, well…. A forked road.
Its 2011 now, many years later, and con artists have changed with time. I am highly suspicious of people, even my friends, so I have rescued myself from being a sucker a few times. My old man showed me a text he had received, seemingly sent to a wrong number asking for a fifty bob so that the sender could call for a taxi to take his child, who had just been bitten by a snake, to hospital. It’s a fairly simple con, the sender is trying to exploit your emotions, especially now with Kenyans4Kenya when you feel that you owe the world for having made a few hundred thousand, or millions. The sender is working on numbers here, if twenty of you send him a fifty bob, assuming that no sucker feels that he has to send a thousand shillings, then our con artist will have a thousand shillings, probably to fund for a bigger scam.
How To Beat It: Don’t send it! Delete the text and feel guilty about it later, if there’s a child who is dying from snakebite, and God wants him to live, then he will live.
The MPESA scam:
This is the most ingenious scam I have seen so far. I first heard of it from an acquaintance I made while queuing at Barclays Mama Nina Street one evening (one of the only three bank branches that operates till 2030hrs btw). He was a middle-aged talkative man, and he narrated how he had almost sent his own KShs. 10, 000. It’s a simple scam…You receive a text saying ‘Transaction______________ Complete. You have received KShs. ___ from ________. Your New Balance is ______. Then you get a call from the said person requesting you to send him or her back the money and to cut, say, 500 bob, for the hustle. See the ingenuity in it?
It works simple, the sender/caller sends you a dummy text, and then calls you before you are done reading the text. The ploy here is to get you to send you your own money, such that while you think you have just earned 500 bob just for being a good citizen, you are actually just saving your own money.
How To Beat It: First, MPESA texts are sent from MPESA, never from a normal +254-7____ number. Second, the text has no typos or weird spaces, con artists are all about hoodwinking, and they never really take time to take care of the details, so when you notice a typo, check for the other factors. Such typos might include wrongly placed capitalizations, weird spaces or miss pelt names. Third, always have a rough idea of your MPESA balance. Like I said in the previous point, it’s all about hoodwinking, if someone sends you money, it is added to your normal balance. Therefore, if the con artist sends, say KShs 2, 000, and you had the same amount, then your balance should be KShs. 4, 000. But the con artist does not know how much you had in the account, and he or she is operating on pure guesswork. If it doesn’t tally, suspect!
How To Beat It Even faster: The con artist is a magician; most of them are first talkers, smooth operators. They will call you immediately after they send the text and ask you in a very polite voice, with a very detailed convincing story, to suspend them back their money’. Because it at times happens, where someone sends mistakenly sends you money, or vice versa, it is easier to just ask them to whom the text confirming the transactions was sent. Get it? I Asked some JONATHAN TIRO (obviously a fake name) that and he hanged up and never called again.
The Millitary Jobs scam
I wanted to join the military, I had a plan about how I was going to become a jet fighter pilot and all, and join a family tradition, from one side of my family that is….as do many other Kenyans. I don’t regret not joining, but I know it is not the same for everyone. So, what do you do if you have a younger brother like me with a love for guns and fatigues, when you get a text saying “Siz, Major amenipigia ameniambia ako na vacancies kumi za recruits and kumi za cadets. Ambia James na vijan wengine watume Kshs. 20, 000 ndio tu-book hizi vacancies…”(Siz, Major has told me he has ten slots for cadets and ten for recruits. Tell James and three other young guys to send Kshs. 20, 000 for booking)
How To Beat It: A tempting offer huh? The Millitary DOES NOT SELL vacancies! Okay, at least officially. We all know that there’s a lot of corruption and nepotism going on at these recruitments, but do not fall for it. No matter how desperate your situation, I am sure you can do something much better with that money than feed a con artist for a week.
The Jackpot Scam
These lazy Con artists cannot even think up a good scam. They simply hijack an ongoing competition, okay, maybe not really hijack, they take advantage of the desperation to win a jackpot. They can go with one of those weird Citizen TV competitions, or the Safaricom ones. The NTV one has also become popular for cons, although some are completely made up. They simply send you a text claiming that you have won a certain amount of money, a tempting figure for a struggling Kenyan, say Kshs 500, 000, and then provide a number you should call to confirm your details. When and if you do, the person on the other side tells you to pay a processing fee, that should cause your tail to tingle (got that from the animation “Over The Hedge”) but you would be surpirsied how many people fall for it.
How To Beat it: No Competition will ever ask you to pay a processing fee to get your winning, It is against the rules of the Betting Board. Don’t even call the number, all the one’s I know will call you with a certain number. If you are participating in a competition, the SMS ones, save the contact number so that you don’t fall for a scam. Don’t be too excited, follow my No. 1 Rule of Life :Suspicion & Cynicism. Seek details and information, and if your instincts tell you anything but to run, sue them, the instincts that is!
How To Beat It Even Faster: I know we all dream of waking up to a jackpot, but that’s not happening any time soon. If you have not, or are not, currently spending all your life savings sending SMSses to a competition, and you get one of these “You Have Won…”texts, ignore it.
The Prank Side: I pulled this one a friend of mine sometime back. I took her phone, changed my contact name to SAFARICOM, and then sent them a text later when we were seated next to each other. You should have seen her JUMP, if I hadn’t laughed so hard, she would never have figured it out (For once, YOU CAN TRY THIS AT HOME)
Most of this scams started in Kamiti Prison, and when the story became public a year or two ago, other bored, scam-dry, idealess con artists, probably in brothels in River Road and Luthuli, upped the game.
Have you ever fallen for such a scam? Or Know of any other? Share…the detail that is….