By Linda Ngari
This fact-check by Piga Firimbi features a report which found that in 2019, Kenyans lost as much as Sh2.15 million per person to fraudsters who promised non-existent jobs in Canada. Recently, scams duplicating Safaricom and Naivas brands resurfaced online.
It also emerged that by sheer coincidence, both scams claimed that the two companies were allegedly celebrating their 30th anniversary hence justifying the hoax that they were giving out cash prizes. The scams seem to follow a pattern.
Weeks earlier, the Piga Firimbi team debunked a similar promotion purporting that the Shell company in Kenya was issuing Ksh9,000 in its 130th anniversary.
This exact scam also circulated in the Philipines. We are certain that we have seen them before, probably fallen victim, or know someone who has, but online scams have always found a way to creep back.
Even when they can be blatantly identical. Someone will still forward them to your WhatsApp group. So, are we so gullible? Once bitten, never shy? Are the scammers simply so idle?
To answer these questions, we looked for a detailed, not-so-serious, yet not-so-shallow source of information. Netflix.
The ‘Money, Explained’ docu-series has an episode on how financial scams have morphed pre and post the internet era. ‘Get Rich Quick’.
“Before even Adam ate the apple, financial scams have been making people millionaires.” From the Ponzi schemes, pump & dump schemes, coaching schemes that promise you money to learn about money, to the famous fallacious ‘Nigerian Prince’ email scams where the prince would promise their unending wealth for your bank account details.
And this is not without strategy. Financial scams would use compelling rags to riches stories, urgency, i.e. appearing to have limited slots to serve the first people to subscribe and testimonials from supposedly succesful customers, which we could see on the fake Naivas and Safaricom promotions.
There is always a comment that sounds something like “I thought it was a joke, but I received my gift this morning”. These comments are often similar.
Such online scams often turn out to be phishing scams, to harvest users’ personal details. Con artists often come up when people are scary and new, or exciting and new.
At a time when there is a frenzy, chaos or a movement. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic saw a spike in scams presented as COVID-19 relief packages.
This is featured in detail on this Piga Firimbi article titled ‘COVID-19 and the Proliferation of Lockdown Relief Package Scams’.
The piga Firimbi team would also notice a similar pattern at the beginning of the year, when Quickmart, Naivas, Pepsi, CocaCola brands would be used to advertise fake jobs and run fake promotions at around the same time. So, as the series explains, no. People are not inherently gullible. People are just too trusting.