With every innovation and eureka moment comes an ugly side that no one saw coming. The latest has been a spate of kidnappings with abductors asking next of kin to send ransom money via popular money transfer services Mpesa and Zap. NTV one of the TV stations operating out of Nairobi, Kenya is doing an expose on how crime in Kenya is evolving with technology.
Inmates from Kamiti Prison ( Kenya’s notorious maximum security facility ) have been hoodwinking hapless citizens with classifieds in the leading dailies purporting to offer jobs both locally and with in the regions. Countries such as Sudan and Rwanda with their emerging economies make very juicy offerings that are hard to ignore and the inmates and their cohorts are capitalizing on the fact that jobs are simply not easy to find and people are desperate to make a living, even if it means relocation plus the fact that it will be difficult to verify particulars of firms based out of the country.
A syndicate operating out of Kamiti Prison places a classified in the Daily Nation with a print run of approximately 300,000 and a daily circulation of approximately 4million. The classified a 6 line affair that would cost 6×250 = 1,500 kenya shillings purported offer a job with a newly registered NGO operating in Sudan. The investigative reporter goes ahead to call the number provided and the fella on the other side picks up and identifies himself as the manager charged with recruitment by the said firm. He doent sound quite as convincing as he keeps repeating himself. He goes ahead to state that there is a registration fee of 1,000 kenya shillings to be sent through the phone number provided.To be more convincing he states that paraphrased “This number has been set up in conjunction with Safaricom specifically to collect the registration fees”. Now there are verified business accounts that one can get from Safaricom to allow for collection of monies or bills, but these have a stringent process to them and the numbers are unique six digit codes and not regular phone numbers.Perhaps the networks need to sensitize the public abit more.
Back to the story…the reporter goes ahead to send the money and the confirmation reveals the name of the recipient, meaning they are registered on Mpesa – not the brightest criminal mind huh 🙂 .Phone tracking reveals that the owner of the phone resides within the walls of Kamiti Maximum prison!
How do they get the money from within prison walls?
As soon as it is received it is sent to yet another accomplice, who is also registed on Mpesa but outside Prison walls, who sends it yet again to another cohort in Ukambani, somewhere in the Eastern province of Kenya. Seems they assume that since it is transferred over the air there is no trail, or they are just plain daring. The reporter gets a team and heads on out to Ukambani to trace the last recipient who also happened to place the ad from the local ad-booking office. Once at Ukambani, they enage the employees of the booking agency to trace the booker of the advert and finally get a name, but he booked the advert under and alias…but in rural communities….you will live three hills away and the shopkeeper still knows your name…so finally they get the guys real name and information that he is in Nairobi. The team heads back to the capital but the guy disconnects anytime he hears a male voice on the other side of the line.
Hmmm..what about a female voice, the lady in the team pulls a fast one on the criminal who is now clearing thinking with his loins and it seems that he does engage the services of ladies of the night and has a problem with names. His “lover” asks him to send Ksh 2,000 via Mpesa but after some negotiation they agree to meet at a spot in Eastleigh, the sprawling business district in Eastlands where you can buy anything; from drugs, guns, electronics… you name it and you can get it in Eastleigh. The lady aka the bait, clad in a buibui heads of to the agreed rendezvous point. Hidden in plain site are the police…and its not long before they first and last piece of the puzzle lead by his loins no doubt with the thought of scoring a fast one is nabbed by the cops.
Sad when you think about it, but what can be done to safe guard against such fraud?