As Swindlers Port From Emails To Phone Calls

Email was predominantly the avenue they use in getting at us. If yours isn't set to shut out junk messages, you'd always see their mails informing you that through your mail address you've been randomly selected to win mouth-watering sums of money from foreign-based organisations or foundations. At other times, they will simply write: 'I have a project for you', expecting you to reply. Albeit, they haven't totally thrown away this method, they have added another to it.

Because the yuletide is here, these never-do-wells who must have been lazing about since the start of the year suddenly realised that they must go all out in hitting home with a car as they had earlier resolved. It can also be that they waited patiently up till this time of the year since they know this is the time most people get easily beguiled; blinded by their craving for quick cash. Hence, the scoundrels capitalise on that to effect their latest sophistry.

Their current stratagem is to get personal. Yes, you heard me right! They do this by calling people's personal phone lines. If it were to be one's hotline they call, that wouldn't pose so much a problem as that would easily give them away. Rather, they go for those lines you must have reserved for close acquaintances and family members. And here is their trick: they'll call such lines claiming you gave it to them. They'll cite illusory scenarios as places where you both exchanged numbers.

Hear what one of them told me this Friday: "ah! Don't you remember me again? I met you at PHCN office by that busy road when you went to pay your bill. We were standing close to each other on the queue. We got talking and I told you I'm into supply; that I make supplies to the federal government. Can't you remember?" Those were the convincing words he uttered after he had called, introduced himself as Hon. John Idoko and averred that he has a job for me!

When he thought I was almost cowed into believing his story, he joking said: "you owe me a bottle of wine for not remembering me." He went on to advise that if I'm within the earshot of any, I should move away from there so that no one would hear our conversation. At this point, I asked him to tell me the town where the PHCN office he was talking about is. On account of this, he told me I should forget about the deal that: "since you can't remember me, let me give the job to someone else that knows me."

With that, he cut the conversation; probably expecting me to call back in pursuit of the chimerical job. I paid no heed to the fool, but continued with my day. My phone conversation with the supposed Hon. Idoko was on Friday morning at about 7:30. Towards evening of same day, another swindler was on my phone; my personal line, that is.

There was no resemblance between this voice and that of the former. Equally, was there no facsimile between their storyline and panache. But, there still was a parallel and it rests on the fact they were both on a mission to defraud me. I must confess that the gimmick of the latter was well orchestrated. This is essentially what can be made out of his tale. It is presented in the first-person account to better reflect its essence:

I just hit a boy with my car. He was severely injured and has been taken to the hospital. Now the police are holding me. They are threatening to lock me up in their cell. But I could be set free if only I recharge the phones of the inspectors here with N1500 worth of recharge card. At the background, I could hear what seemed like the voices of policemen telling him to act fast and stop wasting their time. He replies by telling them he was just talking to his brother who is to send across the airtime.

Me, his brother? This is somebody I'm still lost as to how he got my number!

He had earlier given a vague explanation for that. Seeing that I wasn't satisfied he pleaded that I'll surely know him when I see him, that we need not waste time, else the police locks him up. He continued: I have over N280,000 in my car. But I'd rather not have the police know I have such sum of money, else they'll leave me with nothing. I'll give you N25,000 for all your troubles after I must have paid for the recharge cards you'll send.

Please hurry to wherever they are selling recharge cards. Tell them to give you N1500 airtime, scratch and keep sending them to me till I settle all the police inspectors here. Once I'm allowed to go, I'd be coming to the place you bought the recharge cards to pay the vendor and reward you. I'll not hang up the phone until you read to me the pins. If I do, the officers here will lock me up. Please hurry! This was about the 12th minutes he was spending on this call. He told me that his hanging on to the call would convince the policemen that he was just trying to meet their demand.

He remained on the line while I acted as if I was going to the place recharge cards are sold. At a point, the pressure from him became so unbearable that I was almost buying his story. But, I requested that he allow me come and meet him at the scene since he said they were still there. He refused insisting that my presence would aggravate the case. I then told him to allow me come nearer to the scene, that since he said they were in front of a fuel station, I can just perch close by without the police sensing I was there. In response, he said by the time I got there, he'd have been taken to the station. Our conversation was getting to 18 minutes. I cut the call. He called twice and stopped calling.

After approximately 40 minutes, I called the number with a different line. I still heard the same voice but this time the voice isn't anxiety-laden, instead it sounded calm and relaxed. I feigned familiarity on a different level. But my interlocutor in his smartness kept saying: 'I can hear you.' When he sensed what I was up to, he ended the call. With this, it dawned on me that I have just escaped been pulled a fast one on.

There has been a consensus among everyone I narrated these episodes to, that those were fraudsters on the prowl. Two of them went on to share similar experiences they recently had with conmen. Their versions also showed fraudsters as trying to perpetrate both scams through GSM. But, how do they get these numbers? One of the victims reasoned it was the same way the get to know peoples' email addresses while the other thinks they get the numbers through trial and error.

He said our telecoms operators have so many subscribers that there is hardly a free line. Hence any other seven digits you combine with the first four that is peculiar to a service provider put you through to a subscriber. If this really is their strategy, then everyone is at risk. Since they can get through to anybody including Mr President! But the joy is that they don't just defraud you by contacting you on your line, they can only do you in when you get carried away by their lies.

As such, the elixir is to avoid buying when they come selling. No matter how much is involved, everyone will be well advised to steer clear whatever deal they are initiating. These fraudsters are like the devil. Remember what the Bible tells us to do with the devil. It charges us to rebuke him and he will flee from us. Indeed, these swindlers can't stand the sound of rebuke. Thus, let's not fail to use that.

On Nelson Mandela
When we were young growing up, a male child was born to a man in the neighbourhood. At the naming ceremony, the man gave the first and second names of his son as Nelson Mandela respectively. I couldn't really comprehend why the man had to go that far, but now I very much do.

Since President Jacob Zuma of South Africa announced the passing away of the first black South African president on Thursday night, there have been torrents of reactions eulogizing the anti-aparthied crusader. Mandela's death at age 95 provoked so much reaction to the extent that Nigeria declared three days of national mourning in honour of the late global Icon.

I wonder if there is any other thing that can be said to extol Late Mandela that have not been said by the Barack Obamas, Stephen Harpers and Ban Ki-moons of this world. In all these, I just wish that our leaders will learn that life isn't really about how much wealth you leave behind but it's more about the legacies you bequeathed to humanity.

I think the British Prime Minister, David Cameron got it wrong when while expressing his grief on twitter wrote: "A great light has gone out in the world"

No, the light has not gone out for it still burns in the life of every aficionado of Mandela. Let our youths and all those aspiring for leadership chronicle the live of Madiba and make it their handbook. That way, they'll show the Mandela light as burning in them.

You can follow me on twitter via @ugsylvester or reach me through [email protected]

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Articles by Ugochukwu Ugwuanyi