My accidental encounter with a dreadful fraudster

The season for trickery

The devil finds work for idle hands

In this period of isolation, some unscruplous persons who have nothing better to do have turned to crime. This is unfortunate. Fraudsters seem intent on using this period of quarantine to swindle anyone and everyone they cross paths with.

With the government in Ghana and several other nations issuing a lockdown, the minds of criminals have sensed an opportunity. An opportunity to trick others out of their hard earned incomes. I too was a target of such an attempt. This is what happended.

The phone call

A crime in the middle of the day, out of nowhere.

“I really ought to stop picking up unknown numbers”. That is what I thought to myself after an encounter with a scammer. The phone call happened on Saturday, April 4th, 2020.

Start of phone call

Scammer: Good afternoon Anthony.( This is the first red flag, I will not mention why here but it is )

Me: Good afternoon, please who is this ?

Scammer: This is Bismark, from Koforidua

Me: How can I help you ?

Scammer: I sent some mobile money to you.(Some mobile money is not an amount. Another red flag). I called the MTN office and was asked to call you.(I know this is not the procedure. Another red flag )

Me: Really ( I knew it was a scam at this point. ).

Scammer: How much did you receive, please ?

Me: Give me a minute to check. After a few moments, I said a random amount.

Scammer: Can you kindly send it back ?

Me: Of course. Can you assist me in doing this ? I am not very good with all the mobile money USSD codes. (At this point, he must have realized I had figured him out)

Scammer: An educated person like yourself should be able to send momo credit without any assistance.

Me: No, I still need help.

scammer: Which secondary school did you go ? (It was strange he was asking me about my secondary school. He was doing a test. I gave out a random answer)

Scammer: Are you trying to trick me ? No, you cannot trick me. ( At this point he changed from being super polite to using abusive words on my person. I retorted by telling him to get a real job )

End of phone call

Lessons learnt

Here are seven items I realized by this phone call.

Scammers are like everybody else

No fraudster has a sign on their head that says ”Danger ahead”

Scammers talk the way we talk and dress the way we dress. There is no noticable trait that distinguishes a scammer from an innocent bystander. This scammer did not present himself as working with a telco, which is their most common trick.

He presented himself as another momo customer who had money wronglyfully sent to another wallet. The only trait I can notice, was that this scammer was super polite. And in truth, until they get what they came for, scammers are ever courteous and polite.

Scammers come prepared

Scammers are very likely to read as much as they can about you before dialling your phone number. They have picked you out as a target for a reason.

A mobile money scammer, just like any other criminal has done their research. Since the opportunity to scam does not exist, they have to create those opportunities.

For instance;

  • He obviously knew something about me to call me an educated person.
  • He called me by name.
  • He felt I was educated enough to know all about mobile money.

He must have read about my profile from somewhere online. Which is one of the reasons I do not advocate putting up each and every one of your life details out there on the internet.

Scammers use unlisted numbers

If you either do not know the number, or no name shows up on true caller, then it is better not to answer it

I always treat unlisted numbers as potentially coming from a work related contact. Interestingly, True caller gave a caller ID for the phone number. This was odd. However, it is still fair to say every unknown number is a number you should treat with suspection.

This is however unfortunate because in these days of remote working, you would not know the phone number of everybody who might need your help. Especially with genuine work related phone calls. I checked if the phone number was a mobile money registered number. It was not.

As I said, treat all unlisted numbers with suspection.

Your instinct tells you something is wrong

Every one has a gut instinct. God gave us that for a reason

Every one has a sixth sense. Something that lets them know that something is not right here. It may come from

  • Where the person is calling from
  • The caller’s diction
  • The caller’s pauses in his story
  • The story the caller spins about why he is calling you
  • The time of the day and the day of the week he is calling
  • Any other circumstance

All these are giveaways which you should not ignore.

It can happen to anyone

No one is shielded from being scammed

I do not think I have every received a mobile money (momo) scam before.

I especially did not think anyone would try and do a momo scam on me. I thought if he did his research thoroughly enough, he should have known I would not buy into that. However he still did try to scam me.

Why he tried, I will never know. Prehaps, he thought fortune favours the brave.

Scammers turn violent

Criminals always turn violent and despestrate in the end

In the end they are criminals. Criminals do what criminals do. Criminals at some point result to violence. They have no qualms over if they deprive you over your hard earned cash.

And if they realize they cannot get what they want from you, well they would try and insult you before they hang up. Is that any surprise ?

That is just what all criminals do. And how can we expect any better from them ?

Crimes are now online

Crimes have moved from brick and motor to the being virtual and remote

Leave your doors and windows open. Criminals know that you are less likely to place huge sums of cash under your mattress. Criminals know that if they want serious cash, then its best that they

  • Attack your online bank account credentials
  • Get your momo pin,
  • Impersonate your social media platforms with your contacts
  • Other regretable antics

Looking at this lesson, it makes sense why the number of momo scams might be on the rise within this period. Everybody has been forced to work remotely. Which is perfect for them, because online scams need a virtual scenario anyways.

In this period, becareful of who is on the other line of the phone call, or the messaging app.

Why I wrote this ?

There has to be some logic to sharing this online

  • Was it to burn off steam ?
  • Was it becasue I like to write

It was all the above and more.

We expect better from our neighbours, citizens and fellow human beings. Others should give up playing games and try to work. Crime never pays.

Today, every convenient online and social interactivity also brings with it a price. For this is where crooks and defraudsters lurk and seek their next victim. Initially, I just both fumed and laughed with wife at why people would still be doing this, in such critical times as these. Which brings me to why I wrote this post.

  • I see it as a civic responsibility to inform others who might not be as lucky as I was.
  • To educate the next person Bismark might call and try to scam. And that could very well be you.

Thank you in advance for sharing. Do not just stay safe, stay informed and secured as well.


Anthony Eli Agbenu would love to get in touch
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