How daring Nairobi con men run ‘Safaricom’ racket under the nose of police
They accost you, block your way and run after you if you slip away from their trap. They then hand you a card and ask you to scratch it and win prizes — money, phones and laptops, among others.
Before you know it, you are a victim of con artists masquerading as agents of a ‘Safaricom promotion’ who offer you a fake phone or laptop or any other thing — but not before you pay some money.
The giant mobile telephone service provider has, on several occasions, through its social media accounts, denied any link to the thieves.
They usually have a stand-by vehicle nearby, where they direct clients to go and ‘register’ and collect their prizes. There, a man or woman demands money to “process” claims.
Some of the victims who reported to the police as early as March last year say they had not been refunded their money and the swindlers continue to run their business in broad daylight.
Ms Naomi Susy said she reported the matter at Central Police Station, Nairobi, under OB number 49/17/06/17 but often sees the people who stole her Sh6,000 on June 14 and they always want to take more from her.
“It was around 7:30am,” Ms Susy recalled. “I was intercepted by several ladies at Tuskys, near Co-operative House. They had some cards that had a provision for scratching. I ignored them and walked down the street, in a hurry to catch my matatu. The last lady managed convince me to participate in the ‘free Safaricom promotion’.”
After scratching the card, Ms Susy was informed that she had won a laptop and two phones. The lady asked her to accompany her to a car parked nearby, at the August 7 Memorial Park gate.
“Around that car seemed to be a lot of activity. The lady asked me to give her my ID and the scratched card,” Ms Susy said.
She was then asked to pay Sh6,000 to get her prize. She told them she did not have money but was heading to the bank.
“They accompanied me to the bank and I withdrew the money and gave it to them,” Ms Susy recalled. “I believe they drugged me because I lost my senses.
“After giving them the money, they asked me if I preferred the laptop or cash. I said Sh78,000 in cash. The catch was, I could only get it if I gave them Sh26,000, which would be reimbursed. In total, I would get Sh104,000.
“At this point, I realised that I had been conned. I requested to be given back my cash but somebody who said he was the supervisor told me, after insisting, that I could go to their head office for reimbursement.
“He gave me a phone, an MIN-X, which I understand is not authorised by the communication authority and is worth Sh500, if not less.”
Ms Susy had to leave for work as it was getting late. Later in the day, she approached a traffic police officer at the Railways roundabout and narrated to him her ordeal.
He directed her to Central Police Station.
The ‘promoters’, Ms Susy said, were so confident that they would not be arrested; they even surrounded her and ordered her to delete a picture that she had taken using her phone.
‘PROTECTED BY POLICE’
“More than 30 people came from the surrounding and wanted to take my phone. They said they were being protected by the police and there was nothing I could do to them,” she said.
Mr James Kutoto, who lost Sh38,000, narrated an ordeal almost identical to Ms Susy’s — only that he lost more money.
Several other people have warned about the con artists on social media, among them Mr Joel Kioko.
“They tell you you have won three phones and a laptop. They then tell you that you can choose either a laptop or Sh78,000. Of course anyone would choose the latter. But there is a catch: you must pay Sh6,000 ‘warranty’ for the phones,” Mr Kioko said.
The phones are fake Chinese-made gadgets “of some BMM model”, he said, adding: “Many unsuspecting people usually don’t have that Sh6,000 on the spot and so withdraw it from the ATM or through M-Pesa. I mean, who wouldn’t consider the money being won?”
“It doesn’t end there: If you pay the Sh6,000 they then tell you to pay an extra Sh18,000 as security for laptops. If you choose it, they ask you for your phone and run a few commands and a message appears saying your password is, say, 674246 and it’s valid for 48 hours and that you present it at any of their care centres.”
“They tell you that in about three hours, the money will be credited to your M-Pesa account and that you need to present that password in order to withdraw your money. What you don’t know is that they have dialled *126*3*5#, a Safaricom command for redeeming Bonga points for free phones and accessories.”
Nairobi Police Commander Japheth Koome said he had not received such complaints and that people do not report the cases, making it difficult to conduct investigations.
“It is difficult to crack down on an issue when no one has complained. It would constitute harassment,” Mr Koome said.
The Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act, in its Article 55, prohibits gaming in the streets and other public places, whether on payment or otherwise.