By Maynard Manyowa
Harare – A pair of fake Facebook profiles purporting to be daughters of former Vice President Joice Mujuru have been tricking several Zimbabweans into sending money after courting them on social media an investigation by Khuluma Afrika alongside several complaints has revealed.
One account, belonging to one Ruvarashe Mujuru is part of an elaborate scheme of 419 scams that have hit Zimbabwe lately.
The account is seemingly run the same way as another Facebook profile, named Tanisha Mujuru, and another one named Rue Chinamasa.
The accounts all use fake pictures harvested from unsuspecting profiles on Facebook and Google. The profiles utilize pictures of beautiful women, who are almost always dressed in very attractive clothing.
The persons behind the scheme will send unsolicited messages to people within their friend list, claiming that they are in some form of emergency and need assistance with a small amount of money.
This usually follows a few weeks of courting. Most victims appear to be males, and most of them are given the impression that they will meet the girls afterwards, or that a relationship is imminent.
Upon sending the money, the girls then disappear into the wilderness and the victims are often left egg faced.
Several users have taken to Facebook to shame the profiles, and alert their fellow citizens.
One user wrote.
She added the screenshot message of the girl in question attempting to scam her
Another user, a popular figure and socialite, Tawanda T-Fresh Mhlanga, also known as The Pilot DJ revealed screenshots from the time the woman also attempted to scam him.
The messages followed a chain, which included similar attempts to fleece the same individual of some money, under the impression the woman would meet him later.
This is not the first time that a profile pretending to be linked to a famous family has been exposed in 419 scams. In May this year, the Manica Post exposed another profile belonging to Yolanda Mujuru. A fake profile which was fleecing businessmen of their cash using raunchy pictures and sweet talk.
Early this year, it was reported that several women were offering sexual relations after users sent money to an unregistered Econet number, via mobile money platform Ecocash. The girls would spot user profiles with seductive photos.
Once the money is sent to the numbers, the women will block the users on the Whatsapp platform.
A close member of Dr Joice Mujuru’s family confirmed that the accounts are fake.
Off record was not supposed to comment on the issue but l can confirm those are fake accounts including the one that was being used to scam people , if they’re real people they hold no relation towards the Mujuru family
The accounts however were easy to confirm as fake. Reverse images searches on Ruvarashe Mujuru’s Facebook reveal that the images are of a model based in Botswana.
When this journalist reached out to the account concerning the story, the account was promptly deactivated together with its sister accounts.
Those who have been defrauded have yet to report to the police. In Zimbabwe, law enforcement appears reluctant about online scams. In fact, all over the world, online scams are difficult to police. However, in South Africa, a couple and their accomplices was arrested in Cape Town for scamming people online.
In August, The Times reported that online scams were flourishing in South Africa. However, in Zimbabwe coverage on these forms of scams has been minimal.
What is a 419 Scam?
A 419 scam, also known as a Nigerian scam, is a form of catfishing where an often male user, creates a fake internet personality for the purpose of luring victims and tricking them into sending money.
Catfishing is the act of luring (someone) into a relationship by adopting a fictional online persona.
Initially built around advance free scamming, Nigerian scams with their many variants, also known as 419 scams, are a worldwide multi-billion dollar industry originally built around offering a mark an opportunity to receive a percentage of a stolen or hidden account in return for using the mark’s name and bank account to receive the funds.
Of late the scams have now graduated into romance scams. A romance scam is a confidence trick involving feigned romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection, and then using that goodwill to commit fraud. Fraudulent acts may involve access to the victims’ money, bank accounts, credit cards, passports, e-mail accounts, or national identification numbers or by getting the victims to commit financial fraud on their behalf.
A confidence trick (synonyms include confidence game, confidence scheme, ripoff, scam and stratagem) is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their confidence, used in the classical sense of trust.
How to protect yourself from being scammed?
Watch out for the following red flags.
- Unsolicited communications from strangers on Facebook or WhatsApp who want to get to know you better‚ are best ignored.
- Invitations to befriend you on Facebook or LinkedIn from strangers whose own profiles have very little information should be treated with utmost suspicion.
- Requests for financial assistance from people that you have recently met online should best not be entertained.
- Do not make your bank account details available to third parties that you have not met.
- Do not share details of your financial position with strangers.
- Set the privacy settings on your social media platforms at the strictest possible level to ensure that strangers surfing the internet‚ cannot access any of your personal details or posts.
- Look out for inconsistencies in communications. Syndicates often have a number of people manning their online dating sites so you could possibly be chatting to two or three different people.
- Be wary of people who keep promising to meet you and always cancel at the last minute. Don’t give such a person money‚ to come to visit you.
- Should you suspect that a scammer is targeting you‚ stop all communications immediately and report it to the online dating service or social media platform.
- If you have been the victim of a romance scam and were defrauded in the process‚ report the matter to the police.
- Maynard Manyowa is a journalist and contributing editor on Khuluma Afrika – center for investigative journalism, political analysis and social commentary.