How I was conned: The poorer you are, the more vulnerable you are

They say you are not a true Nairobian until you have been conned. A woman shares how a smooth and sleek con artist effortlessly relieved them of their money.

Sylvia Muthoni, 32, businesswoman

Sylvia had just finished campus and on her first job. Salaries were never paid on time and on this particular day, right on the mid of the month, the previous month’s salary was unpaid.

With no mobile or online banking then, one had to go to the automated teller machines to check bank balance. She banked with National Bank. And this is where the con must have spotted her and singled her out.

“I was angry and disappointed that my account was empty. Then I felt someone tap my back. It was a handsome man in a blue suit, holding a brown envelope,” she recalls.

After greeting her, he asked her if she had dropped an envelope. She hadn't. It was then the man showed her the envelope and told her that it contained Sh 40,000.

“He said that since was neither mine nor his, we should share. I told him that we ought to take it to the police. After failing to convince me to keep the money, he started walking away saying that if I was not interested, he would keep it."

It was then she remembered that she only had to her name bus fare for the evening commute. She needed to refill her gas cylinder and started imagining what she would do with her share of spoils. So she followed him...all the way to Jevanjee Gardens.

“I have never walked so fast, like a woman possessed,” Sylvia says. At Jevanjee Gardens, the man told her to go to the toilet (for security) and divide the money into two portions. But there was a catch, she needed to leave him with a valuable item so that she wouldn't make away with the money.

She gave him her handbag and rushed into the public toilets.

“Unbelievably, all I found inside the envelope was a Sh 50 note with newspaper cuttings. I rushed outside to tell him that there was no money, very afraid that he would say I had conned him. He had disappeared.”

She began asking if anyone had seen a gentleman in a blue suit holding a handbag, and she was dutifully informed by the nearby guards that she was the fourth victim of the day.

“I quickly learnt that the poorer you are, the more vulnerable you are. "I still look for a man in a blue suit. I have never forgotten his face.”