How to avoid the new wave of con tricks [Nation (Kenya)]
(Nation (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The desire to grow rich, and rapidly so, has seen many people fall victim to con tricks and end up losing money and valuables at the speed they thought they would make wealth.
Many Kenyans are easy targets of these tricksters who use get-rich-quick pranks. Beware!
For instance, the tricksters will paint a rosy picture of prosperity or appeal to you for an act of charity.
The con artist will then play on your compassion, prop up your sense of confidence in him or her, or distract you from what is going on around you. Some will even go to the extent of using chemicals to blur your memory and understanding of the surroundings.
Take Mr Patrick Vidija's case. He was walking along Mondlane Street, off Moi Avenue in Nairobi, when a man in front of him dropped a piece of paper that looked like a cheque.
Being a good Samaritan, Vidija picked up the piece of paper and informed the stranger. The stranger was happy and appreciated the gesture. He shook Vidija's hand as a show of gratitude.
This was the last thing Vidija remembers before he regained consciousness several minutes later... only to realise that his bag — which had a professional camera in it, phone, and other personal belongings — was missing.
He was left with a fuzzy memory and general body fatigue before he trudged to the police station to record a statement.
Vidija is not the only victim of these tricksters. New methods are crafted everyday to lure unsuspecting people into get-rich-schemes or charity misadventures.
Helen Kuria was on her way home from work one evening when a man seated next to her in the matatu started "falling asleep" with his head tilting towards her.
Suddenly, the man grabbed her handbag as she paid her fare. She fought to wrest the bag from him.
"The conductor, instead of helping me, told the rest of the passengers that the man and I were together and that they should just let us be.
"He bit my hand in a bid to force me to drop the handbag, which had a laptop in it. I didn't let go," she says.
Had it not been for a fellow passenger who said that the two were not together and that the man boarded the matatu long after she did, she would have lost her handbag.
"The passenger urged others to help me. They beat up the man and the driver had to stop the vehicle for the man to alight. All this time the conductor was insisting that we were together. It just didn't add up."
Money magazine looks at the various ways con artists trick people and steal from them.
Some use smart schemes to get your attention. Once you fall for it, you will be left confused about what happened as your money and valuables will have disappeared.
This is a little different from what Vidija went through.
It is a common method used to attract one's attention. A man walks past you and drops a sealed envelope that has a transparent window that shows its contents, usually currency notes.
Someone else will come from behind, pick up the envelope, and ask you to accompany him to a secluded place to share the money.
It is while sharing the cash that the person who dropped the envelope will appear and demand his money back.
He will state a certain amount and insist that it was in the envelope, forcing you to part with your hard-earned money to "compensate" the individual and avoid embarrassment.
Do not fall for this; no money comes easy.
Fake medical appeal
Most Kenyans are quite generous. And this has been taken for granted by many and taken advantage of by others. Reports have emerged of people appealing for money for medical care for a certain condition, while in reality they are lying.
In a recent case, an advert was published in the newspapers of a woman appealing for financial help for her sick child.
As it turned out, the picture of the baby used was downloaded from a website. Before you offer to help someone, verify the sincerity of their appeals. The fact that the person can afford to advertise does not make the appeal genuine.
Bogus phones for sale
A stranger will try to sell you a sleek phone in the streets.
Oddly, he or she will not want to show you the phone in its entirety. Also note that he will offer the phone at a ridiculously low price.
Should you fall for it, you will part with your hard-earned money only to be disappointed after the seller has gone. The phone will almost always be bogus.
Matters could get even worse; if the phone is actually real, you could be tracked by an ongoing police investigation in a case where the real owner of the phone was murdered.
In that case, it will be difficult to justify possession of stolen property, especially if the owner was killed.
'Lending me your phone'
Someone may ask you to lend them your phone so they can make a call. They will give you an excuse as to why they cannot use theirs.
Many people have fallen for this trick. If in a matatu, someone will announce that they have lost a phone and proceed to call the phone to catch the thief.
Your phone will then ring and you will have to reason with an "angry mob" (mostly made up of the criminal's accomplices) to prove that the phone is yours and to clear your name.
If you want to consider helping a stranger make a call, re-evaluate your safety first. If you think the person is genuine, direct them to a simu ya jamii (public phone) on alighting and offer to pay for its use.
A story is told of a woman who lost Sh80,000 to a con artist who posed as a pastor and claimed to have powers to pray for her money to multiply.
She ended up withdrawing more money from her bank account and giving it to the "pastor" to pray over.
It is hard to know when you are falling for this trick because another person will appear and start thanking the pastor for "helping" them, hence making you have confidence in the pastor.
They will also suggest that you follow them to a secluded place for the prayer session.
Everyone likes money. It is the love of easy money that leaves many penniless.
The SMS prank
This comes as a text message from a phone number — unlike the genuine messages from mobile operators. The message will resemble the genuine ones, though slightly edited and forwarded to you.
It will claim that you have received a certain amount of money from a certain person. A while later, the person will call and tell you that they erroneously sent money to you and would you please send it back?
Before you do any such thing, it is important to confirm the source of that text message. Also, check your balance to know if, indeed, you have received such money.
The Capital Letters section of this magazine has received many complaints from people who have fallen victim to these scams. Many seek help to get their money back.
All that telecommunications firms can do is to cooperate with the police to track down the con artist and get to the bottom of the matter.
"To be able to assist such victims, they would have to report the matter to the police since they are the right authorities to deal with crime. On our end, we promise to cooperate fully with the investigations so as to help the course of justice," says Safaricom public relations manager Ann Nderi in a response to our queries.
As the country rapidly embraces technology, there is a need to be careful when surfing the internet. Cyber criminals are on the prowl, too. Someone will send you an email claiming they are the heir of a fortune. They will say they are unwell and want to entrust their money to you before they die.
They will ask for your bank account details and, as soon as you comply, your money will be withdrawn.
In case you do not have a bank account, they will instruct you to open one and deposit a certain amount of money before they can send the cash fortune to you. Do not disclose your bank account details, especially the PIN number, to anyone.
• Do not entertain strangers, especially those who claim they want to share their "money" with you.
• Avoid walking in dark alleys at night.
• Do not easily trust strangers; be sure of the person you are dealing with first.
• No one prays for money to multiply; investing it does. Do not fall for this trick.
• Be conscious of the people around you, especially in public places. Do not leave your handbag open and fall asleep.
• Report these cases to the police to help them curb con games.
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