A section of Muindi Mbingu Street in Nairobi


Nairobi's conmen have used several tricks to fleece residents over the years and some of the tricks they have in their bags have become sophisticated. Here are a few you can look out for:

'Mganga' from Tanzania

The city is flooded with posters reading 'Mganga from Tanzania/Kenya' thanks to the looming elections. Eric Njenga wanted to be a member of the county assembly in Limuru. He sought the assistance of a witch doctor who lived in Rongai. Among other demands he was told to meet, he had to part with at least Sh50,000 and never suspected that he had been taken for a ride until it was too late.

"I dialed a number I came across on a poster near the Machakos country bus and organised for a meeting with the witch doctor. He asked me to go all the way to Rongai and when I did, he demanded Sh50,000 and promised everything would be taken care of," said Mr Njenga.

Reluctantly, he paid the money and the witch doctor performed 'rituals' on him and told him to come back after a day. He did, and was shocked to find that the makeshift structure had been demolished and the phone number was no longer go through.

Fake promotions

Whenever big corporate organisations want to reach common folk who might not have access to social media, they use physical promotions to market their products. But tricksters have now devised ways to steal from the public. Clad in uniform, young girls will usually entice you to trying one of their raffle draws that involve sending your name and national ID details to a phone number.

Then they tell you to buy the draw ticket but as soon you do, they use the data you give them to hack into your bank account. Additionally, there are those that pretend to sell scratch cards, but woe unto the victims who get home only to find that the card is already used.

Damsel in distress

You are driving on the highway at night and out of nowhere a woman appears in the middle of the road, clothes tattered, crying and seemingly in physical pain. You decide to help her out by rushing her to hospital. On the way, you feel something cold pressed hard against the back of your head only to realise that it's a gun being pointed at you.

She robs you of your valuables, drains your M-Pesa account and demands your ATM PIN, leaving you a few thousands poorer.


Selling fake phones

They will show a particularly good and fashionable phone that they are selling cheaply. As you haggle, they push it back into the pocket saying many people want it. You hurry to clinch the deal and as soon as you give them the money, they give you the fake phone.

Alternatively, an old lady asks you to dial a number for her that goes through but is not answered. Soon after you get into a matatu, she claims her phone has been stolen and dials it and immediately, your phone rings. You are left to beg for mercy from other passengers.

'Pata potea'

The most common cons are those who play card games known as 'pata potea.' It's a form of gambling where you can lose money as fast as you win it. The gambling master has a way of getting the better of one's greed for quick and easy cash. There are actors in the background egging you on to try your luck. One person, usually a woman, will play and win and encourage others to try their luck. They might even make it easy for you to win at first but you never walk away without playing again.

M-Pesa scheme

The con artists compose a message and send it to unsuspecting victims indicating they have sent you a certain amount of money by mistake. Afterwards, they will call and politely ask that you send them back 'their' money.