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Meet the online detectives who unmask fraudsters and loan defaulters

It is a forum that is loathed and loved in equal measure by online users depending on which side of the law you find yourself on.

Buyer Beware is a name that often sends chills down some unscrupulous business people whose deeds have been exposed on the Facebook Group.

Mildred Owiso is the brain behind the forum that has become a ray of hope for Kenyans who have been frustrated by the justice system in the country.

When Nairobi News spoke to Ms Owiso who lives in the United Kingdom to the motive behind the forum’s establishment, she quickly took us back to four years ago when she was conned Sh3 million while trying to buy property.

“I reported the matter to the police and all the relevant authorities in vain. I got tired after losing a lot of money and wasting so much time while following up the case. It was out of my frustrations that idea of Buyer Beware was conceived,” Ms Owiso recounted.

The group was finally created in February 2012, with the first post being that of the founder herself narrating her ordeal at the hands of the cons.

“After I wrote my post I received a lot of feedback with people sharing their experiences while others unmasked companies with poor customer service,” said Ms Owiso.

The group membership has since grown to a over 50,000 members and is co-administrated by several users who vet the information shared.

Before posting information the administrators establish its authenticity and arm themselves with physical evidence in the form of documents to ensure they do not malign an organization or individual’s name.

“We have received several threats but we always stand for the truth and even urge the aggrieved parties to go to court if they feel violated,” says Ms Owiso.

COURT CASES

A screenshot of Buyer Beware's Facebook page.
A screenshot of Buyer Beware’s Facebook page.

Jackson Njeru is the co-administrator of the group and he has had his fair share of days in court with companies exposed for poor customer service.

“I am currently in court with a company that we exposed and the battle has not been easy as they even interfered with the court file when I filed a complaint at the office of the Chief Justice,” said Mr Njeru.

He says that it is his effort to have a society free of corruption and intimidation that keeps him going despite the hurdles.

“Like there was a young man we helped recover some money that a reveler at a club where he was employed failed to pay. But after the defaulter paid up, the young man got his job back,” recalls Mr Njeru.

Florence Odawa has benefited from the group that help her recover money from a client who had defaulted payment.

“I had supplied a former colleague with clothes and she refused to pay me to the extent of blocking my number on her phone. I exposed her on Buyer Beware and within 24hours she sent me the money,” narrated Ms Odawa.

According to her, it was the brother/sisterhood on Buyer Beware that prompted the defaulter to pay up as members of the group were calling and texting her demanding that she pays up.

Wanjiku Kiama who was selling her wedding gown was also tricked by a buyer into sending it via courier only for the buyer to default in paying.

“The buyer had sent half the amount and was to forward the rest by the end of that day but later she started claiming that she had sent it to a wrong number and needed the transaction to be reversed so that she could forward the amount to my number,” said Ms Kiama.

After weeks of lack of cooperation from the client, she exposed her on Buyer Beware and within hours the money was sent.