You’ve probably been to a team-building event in the past where, inevitably, someone thought it would be a great idea to ask: “What is your most embarrassing moment?” (We can feel all the introverts cringing at the thought of this particular ice-breaker)
Of course, in a bid not to embarrass yourself while talking about embarrassing yourself, you probably go for something safe like leaving the house with your fly open or pushing a “pull” door. A brave soul might decide to share their first experience on an escalator.
What we seldom mention are the truly embarrassing experiences, and being conned is certainly one of those. Having someone dupe or manipulate you into losing your property is probably one of the most traumatizing ordeals one can go through. Yet it happens every other day.
In the old days, someone would “pray for your money to double,” or another would somehow convince you that to pray you first have to relinquish all metallic possessions on your person (and they would conveniently offer to hold them for you while you close your eyes to pray). Con artists are often in the news, finding new ways to pull a fast one on you and wrest your hard-earned money or valuables from you.
Nowadays, things are a little more sophisticated. Scammers even devise means of targeting certain groups of people based on demographics (the elderly or students for instance) We’ve been noting scams that different gangs of conmen (and women) have been using to dupe us, and here are some of those that have been reported over the past six months:
- “Tuko na Promotion Hapa…”
Particularly for Nairobi residents, this is one you’ve probably come across. On most weekends within the C.B.D, you might come across a group of seemingly innocent bystanders who will wave little pieces of paper in your face as you walk past, trying to get your attention. As it turns out, not all have good intentions.
They would typically convince you to take part in their promotion, and you might win something like a laptop or sound system. You will then need to pay a little amount, usually a fraction of the cost of the gift you’ve won. To some, it’s too sweet a deal to turn down. Things usually go downhill from there, and as this eye witness account reveals, some gangs will go as far as drugging their victims before robbing them blind.
- Selling “Land”:
In one of the more recent trends noted earlier this year, local authorities in Ol Kalou, Nyandarua County, issued an alert over a gang of conmen who target the elderly living in the area.
The gang is reported to have picked out senior citizens who receive government stipends, and has gone as far as mapping out their regular hang-outs, approaching them at a hotel they are known to frequent for refreshments after picking their stipend.
The gang members then pose as officials selling land, asking only for a nominal registration fee of Ksh1,000.
- Education Grants and Loans:
In another highly targeted money-minting scheme, it emerged this week that a gang of conwomen have been going about preying on high school and university students in the banking halls of Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.
Under this scheme, the women have reportedly been posing as officials from various financial and education institutions, pretending to offer education grants and loans to the students queueing to pay their school term/semester fees.
- Lure of County Jobs:
With the unemployment rate remaining high, companies in the private sector downsizing and others seemingly tightening their purse strings, jobs are becoming harder to come by. Criminals taking advantage of increasingly desperate youth have been preying on job seekers to con them of their money.
In November 2017, the Kisumu County Secretary was in the press issuing a job scam alert after it emerged that con artists were soliciting for bribes in exchange for jobs at the county. The Nairobi County Governor Mike Sonko has also been forced to take to Social Media to warn people of scammers using his name and that of his Sonko Rescue Team to charge job seekers a fee for recruitment, particularly through Social Media.
- Mobile Money Scams:
Mobile money scams have taken on different shapes and forms over the years. Most recently, six suspects aged 22-25 years were arrested in Narok West, Narok County, for their alleged involvement in mobile money fraud. The suspects would allegedly send money, as little as Ksh5, to a number in order to get the owner’s name.
They would then call the line posing as telecommunication or bank staff, ask the client for personal account information before quickly swapping lines and emptying the victim’s account before they caught on.
In October last year, a group of con artists in Karatina, Nyeri County, were posing as SIM card vendors to get a victim’s personal banking/mobile money credentials before going ahead to wipe their accounts clean.