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Four arrested in swoop on gangs using phones to swindle Kenyans

By Vincent Mabatuk | March 8th 2016
Nakuru deputy sub-county AP commander and assistant superintendent of police Barnabas Kimutai accompanied by an armed AP officer on March 6, 2016 in one of the houses used by a criminal gang in Kivumbini area. PHOTO:KIPSANG JOSEPH

Police have arrested four suspected gangsters and impounded national identity cards, machetes and bhang.

The Administration Police officers also impounded mobile phone sim-cards, used credit cards and a mobile phone when they stormed their hideout.

The four are believed to belong to a gang that has been sending text messages to the public, indicating that the recipient of the message had wrongly received money through mobile money transfer.

After sending the message, the sender immediately calls pretending to have noticed the wrong transaction, and in tears requests for a return of part of the cash, telling the victim to remain with some for his kindness.

Nakuru Deputy Sub-county Administration Police Commander Barnabas Kimutai, who led the operation, said those involved in the racket are “well known and residents should not hide them but co-operate with security agents”.

Mr Kimutai, who is also an assistant superintendent of police, said the caller always sounds genuine and desperate and the victims act fast and return the money only to later realise they have been duped.

“So without checking Mpesa balance, the victim immediately notes the strange caller’s number and proceeds to the Mpesa menu to send the money,” he said.

Residents said the gang has thousands of members, with numbers increasing daily due to unemployment.

“Most of them are Form Four leavers while others are university graduates conversant with information technology issues. The masterminds travel from as far as Nairobi to come and train them in secluded rooms at a fee,” said a resident, whose name could not be revealed for security reasons.

Thousands of Kenyans are swindled of cash through the racket, and residents say the gang stays out of sight to avoid detection.

Besides faking money transfer transactions, the gangsters also pretend to be promoters of non-existent consumer promotion products.

Last week, scores of residents were seriously injured after rival members of the group fought over distribution of the loot. Two men who escaped with serious injuries were admitted to St Elizabeth Hospital in Nakuru with severe head injuries.

Last year, Kenya was pushing for an East African policy towards the registration of sim-cards and eradication of counterfeit phones to reduce insecurity in the region.

The Kenyan government was pushing to have Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda follow in its footsteps and register sim-cards issued to subscribers and create a database of all mobile phone subscribers to reduce crime and terrorism.

“As has been experienced in the entire East African region, expansion of mobile communications services has brought public security concerns including the use of mobile handsets to facilitate kidnaps, fraud, terrorism, drug trafficking, and money laundering,” said Communications Authority of Kenya Director General Francis Wangusi.

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