New Vision (Kampala)

19 January 2013

Uganda: Facebook Fraudsters On the Prowl

Recently, Daniel had a Facebook chat with someone with an account in the names of Miria R K Matembe. The so-called Matembe said she was glad that she had found Daniel online.

She told Daniel that she had a problem and wanted a favour from him.

"Which favour madam?" Daniel asked. She said one of the students she looks after was bedridden and needed urgent medical attention, but was stuck in Gulu, yet she (Matembe) had a tight schedule.

So she asked him to send sh250,000 to the student, which was to be refunded in two days. 'Matembe' even sent a mobile number and told Daniel to use mobile money and send the money. She also told him to call the boy before he could send the money.

However, Daniel told her he could not raise sh250,000. She told him to send what he could afford and kept on sending messages to confirm whether Daniel had sent the money.

Daniel, however, realised that this was an impostor trying to con him of his money. Miria R K Matembe's account has 997 friends, all up for conning.

When contacted, Matembe said she had never requested for money using Facebook. She said although she asked someone to open for her an account, she does not use it for chatting.

Daniel is not alone. Much as he was fast to realise that this was a scam, some people have not been that lucky and have been conned of huge sums of money.

The impostors open Facebook accounts using names of either prominent people, relatives or friends of the victims. Some hack into people's accounts.

Many people who use Facebook and have fallen victim, some of whom are clergymen, have complained that the fraudsters first get to know the victim very well and the people he or she normally communicates to.

The tricks

They fake a story that will evoke pity. The stories are normally about family members who are suffering or sick beneficiaries, especially students.

Some fraudsters start by giving their phone numbers, followed by a photograph of someone the victim might know and with whom they are in frequent communication.

The fraudster then goes on to give the phone number of the person the victim is supposed to help, and tells them to call and find out "how the patient is feeling".

However, these phone numbers belong to the conman, who changes the voice and sounds like a patient on their deathbed.

This entices the victim into parting with the money, and by the time the unsuspecting victim realises that they have been duped, the money would have gone already.

Some of the numbers the fraudsters have used lately, which were provided by some of the victims include 0777093808, O788586914, 0772021267, 0789595674. Many have been submitted to the Police for investigations.

However, some clergymen complain that they have reported such fraud to the Police, but nothing has been done to apprehend the culprits.

The Police is aware

Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman Ibin Ssenkumbi said they are aware of the fraudsters and warned people to first cross-check with the person referred to by the fraudster before parting with their money. Ssenkumbi said they had already embarked on investigations into the fraud.

An official from one of the mobile networks, who preferred anonymity because he is not the official spokesperson of the company, also said they had received reports from some members of the public about the fraudsters.

He added that they were working with the Police to see that the culprits are apprehended and arraigned before courts of law.

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