For some unscrupulous people, con games and scamming are full-time jobs. Count yourself lucky if you haven't fallen victim to those distress calls or texts purportedly from family or friends. The sketchy electronics marketers and fraudsters purporting to be from your phone service provider and asking for your details, including the PIN, are just a few of the daily scams Kenyans encounter.
Check out this scenario: You receive that mid-morning call with the caller saying they're calling from your mobile money service provider. They will read your PUK and your ID's serial number. At this point, you raise your antenna, telling the caller to back off. But they are quick to send you a text purportedly from the service provider.
If you do not know the service provider’s exact customer service contact details, you might believe it, as a dozen of the messages follow, suggesting you enter a pin/code sent. However, after a while, you can't make or receive calls. You quickly get alarmed trying to call customer care.
It's too late, as you learn you have been duped, and the scammer borrowed money from your M-Shwari, KCB Mpesa, Timiza, and Fuliza accounts and so on. They might also have emptied your mobile money or even bank accounts if you use the same PIN.
Sadly, many unsuspecting Kenyans continue to fall into this trap. Once they discover they have been scammed, they shy away from speaking out due to the embarrassment of unknowingly falling into con artists' sneaky hands. They silently walk away despite any huge losses they would have suffered.
But you can choose to be an exception, taking the necessary steps to stop the trend and recover your money. Here's what to do:
If scammers can access your contacts, they are most probably their next target. Besides protecting yourself, let people on your contact list know there are cons on the loose that can fraudulently access their sensitive details and money.
Cons take advantage of a weakness in your phone line verification to SIM swap or reroute your messages. The scams can also blackmail you using sensitive information on your phone.
Anyone calling or texting you might be falling into the same trap, enabling the same cons to access their details to access their bank and mobile money. But they could also use these details to empty your accounts and borrow from digital lending apps.
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Once you discover you are a victim of scammers, never wait to file a police report. Of course, you might initially be confused, not believing you are a victim of fraud. You might also feel embarrassed. Yet the only way to regain financial control is to speak to law enforcers.
The local DCI should be your first point of call. Bring all the evidence, including the call and text details. If you have a recorded conversation, the better, avail it to the police, who will begin the investigations, and give you a timeline for completion.
Scams involving your service provider or bank can happen in various ways. For example, cons trick you into transferring money to them using specific codes that you may think are from your bank/ service provider.
Scammers can lure you into paying for nonexistent goods/services using your debit card. Cons might trick you into handing over your debit/ credit/ Sim Card details, including the PIN. They can then access your money fraudulently. Once you discover this, do not wait to file a complaint with your service provider.
Contact them immediately, explaining what might have happened. Let your bank know of any suspected con games. Your bank/service providers should commence their investigations with a timeline for the final response. They should also advise you on how to protect your account.
If you promptly report any suspected fraudulent activity in your accounts, there is a good chance the financial service provider may be able to prevent actual loss by freezing the money before the fraudster is able to withdraw.
There are many instances of scammers persisting in their con game, consistently requesting more money or your details. It sounds like a perfect combo of blackmail and extortion.
Sometimes, a scammer may send you a threatening email or text requesting money or personal details. If you don't, they threaten to spill some confidential personal information about you.
If you find yourself in such a situation, do not fall into the scammers' game plan. Instead, use the proper channels to report intimidation. Don't hand over any information if someone coerces you. Visit your service provider and explain the scam.
While simple shopping apps exist and are helpful to many shoppers, others can be used by cons to swindle your hard-earned cash. Scams posing as buyers/sellers pretend to transact with you only to get away with your money.
But then again, unauthorized apps are the perfect hunting ground for fraudsters looking to hijack your details in their sleazy games. Do not wait to be conned a second or third time.
Instead, delete the apps in question and only use those encrypted ones with verified payment systems where no one can easily dupe you.
If a scammer finds it easy to crack your password, or you share it unknowingly, leading to leakage of your money or sensitive information, it's time to reset it. The password reset best practice is to combine upper, lower, and unique case letters making it almost impossible for someone to crack.
A big no-no is for those easily guessed passwords like your kids' and pets' names. Addresses and birth dates are easy to guess characters, and you should avoid them.
Besides that, be cautious about sharing your personal information both on/offline. The question in your mind should be who is asking for the details and how they intend to use the same info.
It is a considerable risk to share your data, including passwords, with people you do not know.
Finally, avoid using one password for more than one account. For example, your mobile money passwords should never be the same as your ATM passwords. Your Google account password should be unique from the rest, making it hard for con artists to run havoc through your accounts.
Scammers, fraudsters, and con men are more common than you think. If you fall victim to cons, never feel ashamed, for it isn't your fault. You are dealing with sophisticated tricksters and criminals good at their game.
And suppose you suffer money or identity theft, make haste to recover the cash or at the very least, minimise the damage. File a police report and complain to your service provider to see if you can get your money back. Quickly reset your passwords to protect your details from other scams.