Friends who block you instead of refunding your money
One of the most popular Nairobi scams involves friends. Nairobi turns people, and old friends turn to be cons in the city. I mean, it is only in Nairobi where a friend asks for 1,000/- to refund in the evening, only for them to switch off their phones or block you. But it does not always involve asking for a small loan that the friends consider a gift. This form of fraud takes many forms.
Conned by childhood friend twice
Jim* has been a good friend, and since he came to the city about 8 years ago, he has lost a lot of money to people he considered friends. The first case involved someone he grew up with.
“We were neighbours at home and so we played together. Being also family friends, we would borrow sugar and salt from each other. We even wrote letters to each other in high school,” he narrates.
When Jim cleared high school a couple of years ago, he wanted to a mobile buy a phone. He told his friend Jake*, who took him to a phone dealer at a prestigious hotel near their home.
The year was 2003. I had just cleared high school and wanted a good phone after working in a nearby cyber cafe. Jake took me to the hotel and asked me to wait at the reception as he went upstairs to buy the phone. He explained that the dealer was having a meeting and so he had to go see him alone. Since he was my friend and I trusted him, I waited. An hour passed, then an hour and a half. That’s when I started getting worried.”
Friend had been hanging out with cons and thieves
Jim went upstairs to look for his friend but could not find him. He went to their home but he was also not there. Still, he was not worried because he knew Jake would just come back home with his phone. However, when two days passed without any word from him, he started getting worried. Like an innocent friend, he wondered whether Jake was ok.
The fake ‘mheshimiwa’
Escaped through the back door as I waited for my deposit
After a while, he lost track of him. When he got up to check, he could not find him anywhere. He went out to check in the car, but the car wasn’t there. He asked the guards and they said they did not know him, and that they saluted and called everyone Mkubwa! Jim went to check the cctv footage, where he saw the purported client leave the building through the back door.
Lost company laptop, mobile phone and documents
“I reported to the police but it ended there. Thankfully, I had backed up my contacts so I was able to retrieve his sister’s number. Unfortunately, they could not return my laptop which belonged to my then employer. His relatives became very concerned and booked him an easy coach bus so that he could go home to avoid the wrath of the city. After 2 months he returned my documents through a friend,” he laments.
Payment for a job that will never be done
This form of fraud is very common in the city. A friend will ask for money in order to secure you a job and then disappears. You fail to get the job and fail to get the money. Others ask for money to help you get a tender or other favours. Still, there are those whom you pay to do some job and they disappear.
I remember paying someone 15k to install WordPress for me. He was building me a website which I wanted so badly, and somewhere along the way he purportedly got ill and wanted some money to go to the hospital. The last time I heard from him was when he confirmed receipt of the money.
Borrowed money for a friend to do business
Another guy, Tim*, had a friend who wanted some money to do business and return with interest. The friend, James*, had secured a deal to supply laptops in South Sudan and did not have the capital. Tim did not want James to lose the opportunity, so he borrowed some money from his cousin and some from his girlfriend.
“That was back in 2012, and the guy in question was also my childhood friend. To date, he has never paid back and the loans still hang on my neck,” he says.
Your friends, acquaintances, relatives, and even colleagues will call with various non-existent emergencies. These include:
- Dead relatives who have left huge hospital bills
- Sick friends and/or relatives who need money to undergo specialised treatment
- money to buy stock for their shops
- Money to pay rent as they are being thrown out
- Money to buy food as they have not eaten for days
- Money for transport as they are stuck somewhere or cannot make it to an important job interview
- Money to pay the cops as they have been arrested
- money to invest in forex, to gain 20k every month
- Involved in an accident and needs some money to take care of the situation
It is sad that people have abused all causes to the extent that it is not easy to tell if they have a real need. This is the same thing that has happened with street beggars. Because people abused begging, now real beggars who are in dire need of support cannot get it because you cannot tell who is genuine and who is not.
Facebook friends who ask for 200 shillings from everyone in their list
Then there is this category of Facebook friends who sit down and calculate how much they can make from their Facebook friends in a day. Someone looks for 500 friends who look like they are empathetic, asks all of them separately to ‘Please help me with 200 shillings for fare to (somewhere that you really care about).”
Even if only 200 send 200 shillings, and another 100 people send 100 shillings, this person will have successfully made 50,000. The problem is that when this person will be in real need (because everybody gets in need someday), nobody will come forward to help them.
The money washers
Another friend, Joe* tells me about his encounter with a friend from a different country.
“I had known him for a while but did not know what he did for a living. When I was getting a loan to buy my first car, he came to my house saying he wanted to show me something. He removed a black note, put it on a plate. Then he poured a liquid over it twice and it came out as money. He pointed out that the note must be ironed against real money to transfer some ions,” he narrates, adding that his friend knew he could not convince him to become greedy.
You cannot con an honest man
“One thing I know is that you cannot con an honest man. This deal looked very risky, but only the greedy would fall for it. I know such people ask you for money equivalent to the amount of money you wish to ‘wash’. They say the ‘ions’ in one note can only be used once. So if you have 1,000 note, you can only use it once. If you want 100,000/-, you need 100,000. But he knew I was not going to be fooled so easily, so he asked for 400,000/- to buy the liquid used to clean the money. It’s been 3 years and the guy is still waiting for my answer,” he explains.
Have you been conned by a friend? Share your experience in the comments box.