Criminals now using visitors' books to swindle parents, teachers

Man signs book [Courtesy]

Criminals are now using visitors’ books at learning institutions to fleece parents and teachers.

Security officers are pursuing the con men, who use details recorded in the books to trace their victims.

The information makes it easy for the visitor to be identified by name, national ID number, phone contacts, the class of their child and vehicle registration number.

In Nyeri, several secondary schools have lost the registers.

In one such incident in February, a couple drove to the Karatina Girls’ High School on the Nyeri-Nanyuki Highway, where they stopped outside the gate to allegedly seek help.

The woman requested the guard to help them with water to cool off the car engine, which he did. The watchman only noticed the book was missing after they had driven off.

The suspects stole the register when the only guard left his post to fetch the water. The incident looked so normal that the guard had not bothered to check the car’s number plates. 

The incident was reported at the Karatina Police Station.

After a few weeks, some parents and area residents who had visited the school, as well as staff, started receiving strange phone calls.

Some of the callers purported to have secured tenders at the school, and were willing to share the offer if one sent money to a specified number.

And some parents bought the lie. Days later, one parent arrived at the school with a lorryload of cereals, only to realise he had been duped.

The thugs also used the phone number of one of the staff members to solicit for funds under the guise that she was unwell.

“Details in such records are used to lie to parents that their children are sick and should send money to particular numbers for them to be taken to hospital,” said Mary Matheri, a parent.

Last week, while schools across the country were on a one-week break, the gangs were at work. According to sources, more than five schools in Nyeri reported theft of their visitors’ registers.

At one school, security cameras captured a couple arriving at the gate and requesting the guard’s assistance, claiming their car had engine trouble. As the woman was escorted into the school compound, the accomplice stole the book.

It is unclear how many schools have been targeted, but the Nyeri County Director of Education Sabina Aroni admitted the matter was a big concern.

Nyeri County Commissioner Lyford Kibaara, who is in charge of the security committee, said the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) was already working to bring the crooks to justice.

The DCI office in Nyeri declined to comment, and, according to some of the principals of the affected schools, the detectives had asked them not to speak to the media to avoid jeopardising the investigations.

In Baringo County, four women pretending to be parents were arrested while attempting to steal the book at a school in Mogotio.

Police officers found the women with seven other visitors’ books from different institutions.