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Frauds capitalize on institutions’ social media
presence to cheat unsuspecting Kenyans

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Browsing social media on Wednesday, Susan Andika, a job-seeker living with her parents in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, bumped into a post announcing loans of up to 1,000 U.S. dollars for the youths.

The announcement was allegedly from a government agency.

"We have launched loans of up to 1,000 dollars to anyone above 18 years.

"Apply online and get the money straight into your mobile money account," said the post on Wednesday.

An excited Andika followed the link supplied and was asked to apply for the loan by filling an application form and sending 2.5 dollars via mobile money to a certain number.

"I actually sent the money because I believed the post came from the government agency only to realize later it was fake after I saw complaints about the scam," she said.

The scam is the latest targeting mainly government agencies and other institutions offering essential services to defraud social media users in the East African nation.

Besides the youth-financing organization, other institutions on the crosshair of fraudsters include a power utility firm, health insurer and the transport sector regulator.

Legislators, donor agencies and humanitarian organizations have also been targeted, with the fraudsters seeking to maximize on the institutions’ social media presence to defraud citizens.

Most of the targeted institutions offer services that Kenyans use every day or are in dire need of making it easy for the fraudsters to prey on them.

"Buy electricity tokens at 15 percent discount," announced a scammer on social media the other day.

With many Kenyans grappling with high electricity bills, a number fell for the scam by buying tokens that they never received.

"I saw the post and tried buying token worth a dollar out of curiosity but to date I have not received them," said Martin Kilonzo, a chemist attendant in Nairobi.

Millions of Kenyans use social media every day, and nearly all institutions including government agencies have turned to social media to serve and communicate to the public, making fraudsters find the sites namely Facebook and Twitter the best place to target their victims.

Kenya has about 7 million social media users on Facebook and Twitter, according to 2017 estimates by Social Bakers.

The majority of the users are aged between 18 and 34 years with 64 percent of them being male and 36 percent female.

These people increasingly now rely on social media to get services from various institutions, including government.

However, as the fraudsters devise for more schemes, Kenyans and the institutions are fighting back, similarly using social media to expose the scammers and report them to authorities.

Buyer Beware, both on Facebook and Twitter, is one of the pages and handles dedicated to fighting the fraudsters.


"These people will ask you to send 2.7 dollars and once you send, they block you," he wrote on Twitter.

Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT Solution, attributed the rise in social media fraud to anonymity offered by the sites and the huge audience, with the scammers capitalizing on social media presence of institutions to defraud.

"A single post reaches millions of people and out of them, the fraudsters know that they will manage to convince a handful.

"They also know that these days, organizations are communicating with the public via social media, so any post with a believable handle convinces many," he noted.

He added that the fact most Kenyans affected by scams never step forward to report the cases other than complaining on social media makes the scammers thrive.



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