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How I was conned of Sh15,000 on Nairobi streets

I was walking to the office to work during the Easter weekend – on Saturday – when a young man approached me near Ebrahims Supermarket on Moi Avenue and pestered me to take part in a ‘Safaricom’ promotion for phones.

Having lost my phone and a laptop through a break-in into my house a couple of weeks earlier, I said to myself “why not?”

I followed the young man to where they had parked at Kimathi Lane behind Nation Centre where I found a multitude of people milling around the car. A young lady at the driver’s seat was scribbling furiously.

I learnt that she was writing receipts for those who had already won in the promotion.

I was handed a scratch card and told I’d win any item that appeared thrice. Excitedly, I scratched my card and to my joy I had won a phone.

No, I was immediately informed that I did not win just one but three phones. “But you need to pay Sh5,000 to get the three phones,” the young man told me.

Well, this was unexpected news, but again I reasoned what is Sh5,000 for three phones. I paid the money via M-Pesa to a number provided by one of the salesmen.

Upon payment, I was asked to hand over my phone to the lady in the car to confirm before writing receipts. I later learnt that her intention was erase the evidence (so daft since you can obtain a statement showing all your M-Pesa transactions from Safaricom).


Satisfied that I had paid the required amount, I was handed one phone and a receipt. At that point I protested because I was expecting three phones.

It also dawned on me that this could not have been a Safaricom promotion because the receipt did not bear any Safaricom number, or colours. The receipt bore the name Smartphone Communications (dealers in electronics, mobile phones, and accessories, etc).

I asked the lady in the car whether this was indeed a Safaricom promotion and she replied: “Usikuwe na wasi wasi madam. Hii ni promotion mzuri.”

One of the salesmen added: “You are very lucky today. These phones are going for Sh25,000 in our Safaricom shops.”

Not satisfied I asked why there was no Safaricom branding anywhere, and they said being an Easter weekend they had decided to dress down.

The salesman I was dealing with, it appeared, was keen to milk me dry. He said that I needed to pay an extra Sh10,000 for the other two phones and either walk away with a HP laptop worth Sh68,000 or cash whichever I preferred. I had my eye on the prize, and having lost a laptop I decided to pay the extra money.

Even though, I was a bit reluctant. I asked to be shown the laptops and I was led to a short, slightly built young girl in spectacles whom they referred to as “manager”. She was meant to prove that the deal was good.

“See, I am loading money for one of the winners through M-Pesa to their phone,” she told me.


I did not want the cash, but a laptop. But I would soon realise that was just a wish. After making my payment I was handed the other two phones.

“And the laptop?” I asked.  “Madam, we will call you after two days to deliver your laptop,” madam ‘manager’ dropped the bombshell.

I was devastated. This was promising to be a good day; I was in high spirit particularly because it was my birthday.

At that point I realised there was no need to pursue the laptop. It was a con game. I was so annoyed when I later scrutinized the Yestel Mini X phones.

I realised they are the cheapest items one can buy in town, probably not worth Sh500 each! The capacity is so small that it fills up after receiving just five SMSes. They are also not registered by CAK since they are rejects from China.

I had a superior phone, a Samsung Galaxy S3 for which I had shelled out Sh60,000 at a Safaricom shop a couple of years ago, before thieves stole it from my house.

I still wonder what had attracted me to the deal. Just to be sure it was indeed a con game, I decided to call the salesman to enquire about my laptop and he said:

Madam, Subiri draw itafanywa jioni.”

I needed not be told more. As I write this piece, I hear the conmen were on the prowl in town near Tuskys Pioneer branch of course stealing from other unsuspecting Kenyans. And who licensed them by the way?

Editor’s note: Lost anything to these conmen?