Nairobbery: How I Was Conned in the City

August 13, 2019

Statistics show that almost every other Kenyan, especially Nairobi dwellers, have at one point fallen victim to a con game. If you haven’t been conned yet, just chill, your day is coming.

Two people shared how con artists swindled them of their hard-earned cash in Nairobi.

The poorer you are, the more you are vulnerable you are…
Sylvia Muthoni, 32, businesswoman

Sylvia was on her first job after completing her university education. Salaries were never paid on time and on this particular day, right in the middle of the month, Sylvia was yet to receive the previous month’s salary.

She had gone to a National Bank ATM in the capital city to check her bank balance, and this is where the con must have spotted her and singled her out.

“I was angry and disappointed that my account was empty. Then I felt someone tap my back. It was a handsome man in a blue suit, holding a brown envelope,” she recalls.

After greeting her, the man asked Sylvia if she had dropped an envelope containing Sh40,000.

“He said that since was neither mine nor his, we should share. I told him that we ought to take it to the police. After failing to convince me to keep the money, he started walking away saying that if I was not interested, he would keep it.”

It was then she remembered how broke she was; she only had bus fare for the evening commute. She also needed to refill her gas cylinder and started imagining what she would do with her share of spoils. So she followed him…all the way to Jevanjee Gardens.

“I have never walked so fast, like a woman possessed,” Sylvia says.

At Jevanjee Gardens, the con artist told her to go to the toilet (for security) and divide the money into two portions. But there was a catch, she needed to leave him with a valuable item so that she wouldn’t make away with the money. She gave him her handbag and rushed into the public toilets.

“Unbelievably, all I found inside the envelope was a Sh50 note with newspaper cuttings. I rushed outside to tell him that there was no money, very afraid that he would say I had conned him. He had disappeared.”

She asked around if anyone had seen a gentleman in a blue suit holding a handbag, and she was dutifully informed by the nearby guards that she was the fourth victim of the day.

“I quickly learnt that the poorer you are, the more vulnerable you are. I still look for a man in a blue suit. I have never forgotten his face.”

My husband can’t know I lost this much…
Grace Ruto

There is a bus stop in Rongai where Grace, who is a teacher and a land seller, boards a matatu every morning. Occasionally, private motorists pick up commuters and charge them the same amount as matatus would charge.

In 2018, Grace got into such a car. The driver was the talkative type.

“He said his name was Ben and struck up a conversation right away and even asked for my number. We exchanged numbers. He was quite the charmer.”

A week later, ‘Ben’ called her. She had not saved his number on her phone. “He acted like he was hurt that I had not saved his number,” Grace says.

Ben needed Grace to do him a favour. He asked Grace to pick up some ball bearings from someone and he would pick them from her once he was back in Rongai.

She accepted. Ben then called Grace and asked her to give the delivery man Sh15,000 for the goods and he would refund the money.

“Usually, I am not that stupid, but there is something these guys do to you because I agreed to it,” she explains.

Ben wasn’t done asking for favours. He asked Grace to pick more ball bearings from a certain lady and requested her to pay the lady. Ben said he would pick up the supplies the following day. This lady somehow managed to convince Grace to invest in the ball bearings business because they were quite the hot sellers. And so, Grace gave the lady Sh150,000 and in return got a bag of the bearings.

“I was ready to make a business out of selling these spare parts that were very marketable. But the following day, Ben didn’t show up and calls to him dropped.”

She would later find out at a local store that the ball bearings she had received were worth Sh10,000 and were not even in high demand.

“I have since learned that it is a large syndicate that involves Chinese nationals and some Kenyans, and they have swindled many other people,” she says.

To date, she hasn’t told her husband how she lost her savings.

“He still thinks the Sh150,000 is in my account. He would be very angry if he found out.”

Source: Sunday Magazine

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