Nairobi News

HashtagLifeWhat's Hot

How fraudsters are using photos of the sick to mint money from internet

The majority of Kenyans eke a living through honest work, but a few have come up with devious ways of enriching themselves.

That Kenyans are a generous community is not in doubt. It is also not in doubt that Kenyans coalesce around a common cause to better the lives of one another.

The First Lady’s Half Marathon, the Mater Heart Run and a sick child who needs help or a neighbour who has a funeral and needs assistance, are proof of this. Beware, though. That plea could be a con game.

STEALING PHOTOGRAPHS

A few unscrupulous people have begun taking advantage of this generosity to line their pockets. A group of con artistes has taken to stealing photographs of sick people from the Internet and creating stories behind them to attract the sympathy and donations of well-wishers.

A Facebook user by the name Dinnah Kadasira, who has since deactivated the account, has posted on different local groups soliciting for handouts and donations to go towards the medical bills of various people.

In one post, the user “personally” visited a sick person at the cancer ward in Kenyatta National Hospital. The sick woman, christened Lavenda, is said to have stage four breast cancer. A photograph of a woman with an amputated breast is posted alongside information on how well-wishers may get in touch with the family.

Social media users have since sounded the alarm after it emerged that “Dinnah Kadasira” had posted similar appeals for different people with different ailments, but with the same M-Pesa number and Paybill account details.

It was also revealed that the user runs several online businesses under different names. In one business, the user deals in second hand shoes, in another, home appliances, men’s suits and, in yet another, bales of mitumba clothing.

SAME M-PESA NUMBER

All these services and items are paid for using the same M-Pesa number as the medical appeals. The number is registered to one Lavenda Linda Aduda.

The mysterious Dinnah Kadasira also operates another M-Pesa line registered under the name Dibo Sankala Sama. The Nation made calls to the numbers to verify their authenticity.

“Hello? Linda hayuko, ametoka kidogo (Linda is not here, she has stepped out briefly)”, a male voice on the other end of the line answered.

He quickly hung up when he was asked when she would be back and if he could take a message for her.

In another group, on April 21, Lydiah Shiraku, a fake account with only one friend and four pictures, posted an appeal for a baby born with spina bifida — a serious condition in which lack of folic acid during pregnancy leads to malformation of the baby’s spine.

“‘Immediately when I gave birth to Nathan, he was put on my chest. I saw the wound on his back when he was being taken to be weighed and I didn’t think that it was serious. I thought that the wound would just be treated by a few injections and tablets,” a section of the medical appeal said.

It was accompanied by four photographs of a sick looking baby. A Google search revealed that the original photos were posted on a website for an international NGO called CURE in 2012 in Zambia.

FAKE APPEAL

The fake appeal urged well wishers to help the family to raise Sh320,000 for an operation scheduled to be done at the Kenyatta National Hospital this month. The M-Pesa number is registered to Alice Waithira Thuita, who is supposedly the mother of the sick infant.

A further search on the Internet on the name revealed another Facebook post about a very sick woman who needs financial assistance to receive medical care.

The original photograph was from a Tanzanian blog of a 17-year-old girl, Hajira Twalib Mdoka, in 2014. It is not clear how many people have been duped into sending money through these schemes.

According Mr Nicholas Mulila, the Safaricom chief corporate security officer, the telco has put in place systems to minimise instances of fraud.