How to Identify and Avoid Scams in Kenya

Due to increased internet and mobile access, scams are prevalent in the digital age, especially in Kenya. This guide will inform you about common scams in Kenya and how to protect your finances and personal information. Staying informed is crucial to avoid falling victim to these schemes.

What are the most common scams in Kenya?

Scams can occur anywhere, with Kenya being no exception. Understanding the most common scams will help you stay alert and prepared. Here are some frequently encountered scams:

1. Advanced Fee Fraud: The Advanced Fee Fraud, or the 419 scam, is rooted in Africa. Victims are promised a significant share of a large sum of money in exchange for helping to transfer it out of the country. However, before receiving their “share,” they’re asked to pay some costs directly into the scammer’s pocket. 

2. Ponzi Schemes: Despite global crackdowns, Ponzi schemes still deceive people in Kenya. These so-called ‘investment’ opportunities promise unbelievable returns but depend on continually recruiting new participants to pay returns to earlier investors. Eventually, these schemes collapse, leaving late entrants with huge losses. 

3. Mobile Money Scams: Thanks to the prevalent use of mobile money platforms like M-Pesa, scams involving money transfers are general. Many of these scams include messages notifying you of a ‘mistaken’ deposit, with a plea for you to return the money. Unfortunately, you’ll find the original ‘deposit’ was fake if you do. 

4. Employment Scams: They often involve recruiters asking for a fee to secure a job or an interview. Pay attention to signs such as too good to be true, upfront payments, unprofessional communication, and personal information requested. Most times, the job positions advertised do not exist.

5. Online Dating Scams: With the rise of online interactions, online dating scams have increased. Scammers create fake profiles on dating sites, win your trust, and then ask for money – supposedly for emergencies, travel expenses, or even marriage plans. 

6. Phishing Scams: Phishing scams trick you into revealing private information like passwords or credit card numbers. They’re often disguised as trustworthy entities and contact you through email, mobile text, or social media. Scammers may pose as known organisations such as banks, sending convincing urgent messages about suspicious activity on your account or the need to confirm your details. 

Note: Phishers trick you into acting impulsively. Always pause, think, and verify before responding to unsolicited messages requesting personal information.

Phishing signs include: 

  • Mistyped URLs in email links.
  • Low-quality or distorted logos in messages.
  • Demands for confidential information.
  • Spelling and grammar errors in messages.
  • Alarming language to induce immediate action.

7. Lottery Scams: Lottery scams, which may seem “too good to be true”, trick people with promises of large cash prizes and other attractive rewards. Victims usually need to pay a fee or give sensitive personal data to claim their supposed winnings, which ultimately do not exist.

How does it work?

You could get a phone call, email, text, or social media message telling you you’ve won a prize. These messages often stress urgency and look professional to gain trust. If you fall for these sweet words, make the required payment or share your personal information, scammers win. Always remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

8. Forex Trading Scams: often targeting newcomers attracted by the potential profits. Forex trading can be legitimate, but not all opportunities are real. Scammers use tricks, including outrageous profit promises, fake trading platforms, altering trading outcomes, and stealing investors’ money. Legitimate forex brokers and scams can often be distinguished by checking for regulatory certification by authorities like Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority (CMA). 

To avoid scams, learn about forex trading. Recommended steps are:

  • Educate Yourself: Understand forex trading. Education is the best way to avoid forex fraud.
  • Research Before Investing: Check the broker’s credibility and regulation by financial authorities.
  • Be Wary of Outrageous Claims: If profit claims seem unrealistic, they likely are. Forex trading returns are never guaranteed.
  • Stay In Control: Don’t let others trade for you. They may need to prioritise your interests.

9. Charity Scams: Although we like to donate to charity, some scammers unfortunately use fake charities to deceive people. Be aware of how these scams operate.

Detecting a Charity Scam

Charity scams play on emotions often by projecting desperate situations requiring direct help. It is crucial to avoid hastily donating but examine the organisation asking for donations first. Here are the signs of charity scams: 

  • Urgent appeals: Genuine charities do not hurry you to donate.
  • Obscurity: Real charities disclose their mission, objectives, and financial state transparently.
  • Specific ways of payment: Frauds prefer unknown or untraceable payment methods.

Tips for Smart Donation 

After spotting red flags, make sure the donation goes to the deserving place. Keep these tips handy: 

  1. Verify the organisation: Cross-verify if it is officially registered, mostly with established departments or organisations based on their functionality.
  2. Review financial details: Established charities display annual records and financial reports online. Check how they invest in donations.
  3. Choose secure payment methods: Use a cheque or card to donate, so there is a track if anything goes wrong.

In conclusion, it’s crucial to donate to real charities. Remember that a willingness to help shouldn’t hinder you from examining critically and acting wisely.

How can I avoid falling for phishing scams?

Phishing is a malicious method scammers use to trick you into disclosing personal information such as passwords, credit card numbers, or national identification numbers, often through seemingly trusted emails, websites, or text messages. Here’s how you can avoid falling for these scams in Kenya. 

Learn to Identify Phishing Attempts 

The first step in avoiding phishing scams is to identify them. Scammers often impersonate known entities such as banks, government institutions or popular websites. Stay vigilant for tell-tale signs such as threats, urgency, and misspellings. Legitimate organisations will never ask for your sensitive information via email or text messages. 

Be Cautious with Emails and Links 

Always be cautious when you receive an email or a text message that contains a link, especially if it is unsolicited. Please hover over the link to see its actual destination. If unsure, stop clicking on it and directly visiting the company’s official website. 

Install Anti-Phishing Software 

Using an anti-phishing toolbar on your internet browser can help you spot phishing scams. These tools compare the websites you visit with known phishing sites and alert you if you’re about to fall into a trap. Also, ensure that your browser is up to date, as most modern browsers contain phishing protection features. 

Avoid Divulging Personal Information 

A vital rule in cybersecurity is never to share personal data unless necessary. Be especially wary of requests for information that include bank account numbers, passwords, or national identification numbers. 

Regularly Update and Scan Your Computer 

Keeping your computer updated with the latest security patches and running regular scans can keep you safe from malware that might come with phishing scams. Always keep your firewall turned on, and keep your antivirus software updated. Having data protection tools can stop phishing scams in their tracks, so regular updates and scans are a must.

How can I protect my personal information from scammers?

Securing your personal information is essential in the fight against scams. Taking a proactive approach can reduce the likelihood of becoming a fraud victim. Let’s consider some steps you can take:

1. Be Aware of What You Share Online 

Beware of oversharing, especially on social media. Personal details such as your full name, date of birth, phone number, email, and home address are valuable to scammers. They can use this information to impersonate you or gain access to your accounts. Always think twice before you post personal details. 

2. Secure Your Passwords 

Keep your passwords private and complex. Avoid using easy-to-guess passwords like your birthday or your child’s name. Consider using a password manager to help you create and store strong, unique passwords for each account. 

3. Be Suspicious of Unsolicited Contacts 

If you’re contacted out of the blue by someone asking for personal details, be suspicious. Legitimate organisations or companies will not typically ask for personal information via email or text message. 

4. Regularly Update Your Software 

Ensure that your computer and mobile device are up-to-date with the latest software and security updates. Outdated systems are more vulnerable to attacks. This is because they might have known security flaws that hackers exploit. 

5. Use Secure and Encrypted Connections 

When using the internet, particularly for transactions involving sensitive information, make sure you are on a secure, encrypted connection. Look for ‘https:// at the start of the web address rather than ‘http://’. 

While these steps won’t guarantee that you won’t fall victim to a scam, they provide a strong line of defence. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

How can I report a scam in Kenya?

Suppose you believe you’ve fallen victim to a scam or fraud in Kenya. In that case, it’s important to report the incident promptly so necessary actions can be taken. Here are the steps you can take to report a scam: 

  • Report Directly to the Police 

If you are scammed, the first step is to report directly to the police. Visit your local police station, bringing as much supporting evidence as possible, such as emails, texts, receipts, etc. In Kenya, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) handles matters related to scams and fraud. 

  • Reach Out to the Financial Institutions Involved 

You can lodge a complaint through their Consumer Complaints Portal on their official website. 

  • Consult Legal Advice 

Scams can often result in serious financial harm and significant distress. It may be beneficial to seek legal advice to understand your rights as a victim and explore possible legal actions. Legal professionals can guide you in this process, helping ensure you pursue all available avenues for justice. 

  • Inform Friends and Family 

Lastly, warn your friends and family about the scam to prevent them from falling victim to the same fraud. This shared awareness can contribute to the collective fight against scammers. 

Remember that scams thrive on silence. Your report could prevent others from becoming victims and might even contribute to catching the fraudsters behind these schemes. It’s essential to stay vigilant, be aware, and take swift action when you suspect a scam.

Get informed on how to do more with your money.