LIBERIA: The Wave of ‘Telephonic Fraud’

By Samuel G. Dweh—freelance Development journalist +231 (0)886618906/776583266/samuelosophy@yahoo.com/samuelosophy1@gmail.com |

…A newly-discovered survival means in an economically sagged post-civil war Society

This article ends with recommendations—solution methods

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AS A VICTIM

I had had two personal experiences of being a victim.

For the first one, which happened in 2019, a stranger, man, called me on one of my phone numbers (see above). The caller said he was being detained in a Government’s prison cell in Lofa County, situated in North-Western Liberia, and appealed to me to assist him with any amount I have for food. He told me to send the money through the Mobile Money account of the head of the prison, a Government official, whose number he was speaking through. “Sir or uncle, I haven’t eaten for two days now in the cell, and my chest is hurting from severe hunger,” the caller said, crying.

The person’s story emotionally moved me, based on my knowledge of prison conditions in Liberia. (I had visited prison centers in Grand Kru and Maryland Counties during the 2018’s World Press Freedom Day, organized by the Press Union of Liberia, sponsored by the World Health Organization)

But  I didn’t have money on me. So, I began to think about who I would to, to give me at least one thousand Liberian Dollars as credit to send fast through Mobile money. I explained the situation to a friend who I had met to give me the money, to be wired via Mobile Money to the “hungry prisoner”. The friend told me, “That beggar is a criminal, one of the community of people defrauding other people under the pretext of being in life-threatening situation or having a fast-money generating business.” After the long explanation, the friend said, “I had spent the last money I had on me before you arrived.”

I thought: This friend doesn’t want to help me, so using this story, created, as an excuse. Angry, I left the friend’s shop.

But my second experience on Sunday, June 28, 2020—in which I became a victim—woke me up to the truthfulness of what my friend ‘advised’ me on one year earlier (2019) And I prayed to God to pardon me over “being angry” against this ‘intuition-controlled’ friend.

On this day (June 28, 2020), a guy used telephone number 0881545919—a number of Telecommunications Company Lonestar Cell MTN—to reach me. I was over a commode, defecating, when the call came. “Hello, Samuel Dweh. It’s I, Emmanuel, the son of Ma Mary,” the caller became. I couldn’t remember any “Emmanuel” being the “son of Ma Mary”, but I became anxious to hear the caller’s next words, because of his correct pronunciation of my correct name, even though he omitted my middle name—“G”—which is on all my legal documents. Then the person came to asking for the wellbeing of my family, wishing everybody well. This “concern” for my family’s wellbeing heightened my anxiety to hear any other thing he wanted to say. “I’m still on the gold mine in Sinoe County, since I came here six months ago. I called to tell you, I want to send you fifteen US Dollars, to use ten Dollars to buy recharge cards for me, and take the remaining five Dollars for your help.”

I was hooked. “Okay!” I surrendered. “Send the money on my Mobile money account on my number you are using,”  I added. The caller had connected with me through my Lonestar Cell MTN number (see above) About one minute later, the message tune on my phone rang. I viewed the message. I says: “MobileMoney You have received 15.00USD From Emmanuel T. SMITH. On your on your mobile money account (+231888652401) on your mobile money account at 2020/.06//28 ID 01012201 11:.44.PM Message From Sender; Reference. Your new balance: 15. USD.”

I was ‘too hot’ for the “5.00 USD” I would get, so I didn’t take time to see the many ‘fraud indicators’ in the text message.

The first is the sender’s phone number. The real Mobile Money message from Lonestar Cell MTN doesn’t have the sender’s number appearing first. Only “MobileMoney” appears, followed by information about the amount sent, and the name of the sender. The second indicator of swindle, I failed in noticing, are the grammatical errors in the main body of the information:  the sentence-end mark (.) The other pointers of fraud are the “ID number” (01012201) and the “Your new balance: 15. USD”—implying an amount already in the money receiver’s credit account (I had zero balance when the call came)

To my knowledge, Telecom Company Lonestar Cell MTN doesn’t add this ‘irrelevant’ information to its MobileMoney service—inserted by  this creative swindler in his dubious information to me.

Still hot like “cook pot’s seat” (a Liberian parlance for over-anxiety), especially to get the “free 5.00USD” promised by cunning fraudster “Emmanuel”, I hauled part of my only “Savings” (USD10)—two different bills of USD5.00—hidden under the rug in my office and raced to a recharge cards dealer.

Three seconds after I had paid for Lonestar Cell MTN recharge cards, “Emmanuel” called. “It’s Orange cards I need,” he said, referring to a rival Company—Orange Liberia, a French Company.

I thought of using my own money to get the recharge cards before I cashed out the “15.00USD” sent by “Emmanuel”. First, I paid for three cards at the rate of LD$200 (for USD1.00) per card. Then, I raced to a quiet corner to read out the credit number on each of the cards. “Find a pen and paper for the number,” I instructed “Emmanuel”

“I already have pen and paper with me,” Emmanuel responded.

After I had read one number, I told “Emmanuel” to read out the same number for confirmation.

“Now, buy one pack that costs US Five Dollars,” he commanded.

I bought four different USD1.00 pieces, instead, because I didn’t have USD5.00 bill with me. (I left the other bill at my office)

“Samuel, please add ten US Dollars more scratch cards, I will send twenty-five US Dollar tomorrow. Fifteen Dollars will be your service fee,” the swindler made another appeal, after I he copied the number on the last of the three recharge cards sent to him.

I raced to the recharge cards dealer, to tell him I will return to purchase extra USD10 worth of recharge cards.

“You are strangely excited speaking with the person, and you seem anxious on buying cards. What is your relationship to the person?” the telephonic card dealer said to me. I explained when and how we met. “That person is a fraudster!” he warned.

I told him the person a distant relative whose identity I couldn’t remember, but who had called my full name.

“Now, check your MobileMoney account,” he commanded me. I obeyed. Zero account! “You now believed what I told you about this person,” he concluded.

I have been duped of USD7.00!

I raced to my office to bring out the last bill of USD5.00 to pay for the extra four recharge cards fraudster “Emmanuel” got me to purchase.

All this happened during my writing session at the Liberia Media Center in Jallah Town, 1st Street, Sinkor, Monrovia.

Many other persons had fallen into the trap of different ‘telephonic fraudsters’ and are narrating their experience to other people.

WHO IS A ‘TELEPHONIC FRAUDSTER’?

A telephonic fraudster is a stranger—or familiar person—who calls you on your personal phone, claiming (sometime crying) on being in a distress and urgently needs your financial help, or saying he/she has a highly valued economic commodity (mostly gold or diamond), but is in “pawn” and asking for your monetary help to “rescue” it from the pawn broker, for both of you to sell it and share the money.

HOW HE/SHE GETS YOUR NAME?

A ‘telephonic fraudster’ will get your name from somebody who knows you, from a misplaced document (bearing your name), or from a newspaper containing your name as a “Writer” (Like the Author of this article), from a Radio’s Talk-Show (where your private contact number was read out for the public)

WHERE IS THE BASE OF THE ‘TELEPHONIC FRAUDSTER’?

He/she can be found anywhere, but prefers to give  ‘mining site’ (for gold or diamond) to his/her target person—you who know the ‘economic value’ of gold or diamond.

HOW HE/SHE HOOKS YOUR ATTENTION—TO SWINDLE YOU.

His/her major ‘hook’ is mostly a ‘business’ story—to the ‘connected target’— about being in possession of “several minerals” (ounces of gold or diamond) in his/her “travelling bag” brought from a ‘minerals-rich site’ (in another County), but the bag is being “held” by the driver of the transport car that conveyed him/her from the ‘mining site’ on an arrival-before-payment transportation agreement, and wants you “free” the travelling bag with your own money, so that both of you can sell the minerals together and share the money from the sale.

WHO IS EASILY CAJOLED BY THE ‘TELEPHONIC FRAUDSTER’?

The prime target of a ‘telephonic fraudster’ is ‘greedy person’ (you have enough, but you need ‘excess’) or a ‘poor person’—you’re completely “broke” or you have “little” and you want to “increase” the “small amount” (I was in the latter category when “Emmanuel” duped me)

WHAT ARE THE FACTORS OF ‘TELEPHONIC FRAUD’?

Similar to the ones under ‘Scheme’ (above)

HOW CAN A ‘TELEPHONNIC FRAUDSTER’ BE TRACED?

This is extremely difficult—or impossible—because the ‘telephonic fraudster’ isn’t at a location you know, or he/she uses another person’s phone in carrying out the scheme.

MY PERSONAL BELIEF ON MY EXPERIENCE

I strongly hold to the conviction that the Omnipotent Being (God), in Heaven, allowed my being a victim for me to prevent the victimization of another person being cajoled by one of these very wise criminals.

HOW CAN ‘TELEPHONIC FRAUD’ BE CURBED

‘Telephonic fraud’ can be curtailed by ‘public awareness’ of his/her modus operandi—like what I’ve done through my talent and skill: writing.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Don’t be “too empathetic” to solve  the “problem” of a stranger.

Don’t be anxious to “increase” the “small amount” of money you have—even if your “emotionally closest relative” is starving.

Pray for the current national political leadership to properly use God’s “productive ideas” in it, to create more jobs to turn the minds of majority of the Country’s young people from criminality (swindling)

The Author
(Visited 115 times, 1 visits today)
About Cholo Brooks 13147 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.