WHEN THE DEAL IS TOO GOOD, ACT SLOWER.
Ogopa sana Nairobi.
“In the midst of every crisis, lies a great opportunity.” This quote, usually, motivates the entrepreneur to diversify their income streams by either launching new products or revamping old ones while aligning them to current trends. Technology has been evoked over the last few years to make life easier and more convenient, and while we enjoy the benefits that come with easened business transactions, we equally fall prey to the very same features enabled by it to fraudsters.
It gets worse with the current global pandemic where everyone is in a rush to still make ends meet amidst harsh economic conditions. You would easily think that the scammers would at least have mercy, but to my detriment, they are still at work. My Scam story is enough testament to this [You can catch it here if you haven’t yet] .
The good news, however, is that you can be a step ahead, and the only heist you will ever witness hopefully is the famous Money Heist.
Mobile financial services provide a very good conduit for various types of fraud. This is mainly attributed to the ubiquity of these services. At least half of the Kenyan population have access to mobile money because mobile phones are seen to be the “new bank accounts” due to their portability, speed, and ease of transactions. These very attributes have also propagated the rapid execution of scams.
Let’s take a look at how these scams take different forms;
Promises of High Yields.
The sound of high returns in these unprecedented times feels very alluring. Typical of pyramid schemes, they promise returns with rates way above that of the market. These returns however, depend on one’s ability to recruit more “investors” into the chain and the more you bring on board, the higher you go up the chain. The earlier investors are then reimbursed with fees accrued from later investors and the cycle goes on and on.
Undefined Maturity Timelines.
While the promise of high returns is one thing, getting these returns within a week or two is mind-blowing, right? These returns are mostly guaranteed with little or no risk, serving as the perfect bait for an unsuspecting person. A twist to this would be the selling of a product(s) that could be beneficial to the consumer and thus, the faster these products move, the higher the return and the higher the rank you climb. Of course you will embrace this challenge and text all your contacts about it, and you will soon find out that you are the only one who promoted yourself.
From people who either work there or close relations. These people are seen to always have a lavish lifestyle, constantly on holiday or show off with cars and houses. Need I mention the suits?
Playing the Sympathy Card
This is predominant in what we call ‘trigger/curiosity texting’ whereby an anonymous sender curates a text that indulges you. It could be the looking-for-love act, sending financial assistance to help someone, or the one we all know, “Nitumie kwa hii namba hio ingine iko na fuliza.”
A ‘Do-or-Die’ Affair.
Mostly evident in false promotion scams, where a provider can be impersonated and thereafter contacts the client on an alleged prize and that the only catch is that they need to pay a small fee to claim it. there is a sense of urgency that is created to the consumer. The scammer is in a rush and so they dangle the carrot and you are not given the time to think it through
The Classical Act
whereby an agent is impersonated and they call a client to request for their PIN and other personal information and thereafter use the obtained information to make a SIM Swap and thus one cannot access otherwise normal services like voice, text, mobile money services etc.
There is the occasional loss from mistaken transactions and the unintended recipient then refuses to return.
What are some of the ways we can use to avoid being defrauded?
Safe Internet and Mobile Practice:
This includes, but is not limited to;
Not downloading email content from unknown sources.
Not sharing personal information such as PIN and passwords via phone, text or email. Simply put, PIN YAKO NI SIRI YAKO.
Regularly changing your PINs and passwords and not using one password across accounts to safeguard your device.
Not displaying too much personal information on your social media profiles. It gives the fraudster the leverage to gain your trust easily.
Ignoring or blocking uncalled for emails or texts that promise undue benefit, or forwarding the same to your mobile service provider.
Check your mobile money balance first whenever you get a sympathy or erroneous text.
Create strong unique passwords with multi factor authentication features such as Google Authenticator that automatically changes passwords after every 3 or so minutes. Other features include voice biometrics like Safaricom’s Jitambulishe.
If somebody you know requests for assistance, you can call or text to confirm if it is actually them. Your contact could probably be at harm and you will easily lend because of the nature of your relationship.
In cases of pyramid and Ponzi schemes, a background check is more than necessary. A proper background check brings to the surface an elaborate revelation of how the company runs, with appropriate documentation as to;
The ownership of a company,
Physical location of a company,
Licensing and acknowledgement by the relevant regulatory bodies,
Products for sale,
Mode of earning and investment of returns.
Go to the official website of the provider and verify if they have promotions running. Confirm their verified numbers that they use to contact clients and their unique message identifiers.
During the Fraud:
To curb the sense of urgency associated with most scams, first think. Then ask questions. The more you ask questions, the more you may identify inconsistencies with their narratives. Since they are in a rush, many at times they hang up over the phone or lose interest if it is personal contact.
In the Event We Get Scammed:
In the case of Bank Account Fraud or SIM Swap, contact your mobile service provider and/or bank to immediately block that line and accounts associated with the line.
When reaching out to the provider via social media channels, it is advised to not openly add your phone number on the feed. Instead, use the Direct Messaging feature.
Change the PIN and passwords immediately.
Report the fraud.
Record as much information about the scam and scammers. You can capture the mode of contact, the phone numbers, emails, how they looked, the time and place of the scam etc. This will come handy while building a profile for investigation purposes.
If you have not been scammed in this beautiful city, show me the mountain you are facing when you pray!