The message above has been circulating among Kenyan WhatsApp users claiming to be an easy way of accessing Kshs 3,300 being disbursed by the government to all Kenyan citizens aged 20 years and above.
On January 21, 2020, the Directorate Criminal of Investigations (DCI) urged the public to take precautionary measures while shopping online to avoid being conned.
The COVID-19 outbreak in Kenya, however, created an opportunity for online scammers, seeing as its negative effects on the economy have led to significant income loss for many which would make them easy targets.
On April 15, the DCI issued a fraud alert warning Kenyans on what to look out for to avoid being scammed and robbed, after noting that criminals are using the pandemic to take advantage of people by sending enticing emails and links promising free goodies, data bundles, money and airtime among other things.
Once one clicks the link, they are required to state whether they are a Kenyan citizen by birth, which medium they would prefer to receive the funds and whether they really need the cash, as can be seen from the screenshots below:
It then requires one to share to 12 WhatsApp groups after which they’ll be asked for their phone number where the cash will be deposited within 2 minutes.
The domain is listed as belonging to WhoisGuard, Inc., in Panama. This means that the hosting information is hidden. WhoIsGuard is a privacy protection service that prevents people from seeing the name, address, phone number, email address and other personal information of a domain registrant when a WHOIS search for a domain is made. It puts its address information to the public ‘WHOIS’ instead of a domain registrant’s own personal/personally identifiable information to protect them from the prying eyes of the public, potential spam and even identity theft.
At the bottom of the site is a hyperlinked disclaimer that goes on to contradict everything in the claim. It is possible that some are likely not to click on it.
A cyber-safety organization called CyberSpace Kenya confirmed to Piga Firimbi in writing that the site is indeed a scam site saying:
“We can confirm that the site is indeed a scam site. Also note that the bottom of the site, at the footer, there is a disclaimer where they indicate that they are not affiliated with the government and will not be collecting any personal information or bank details but they go ahead and do so. This is also a replica of similar sites in terms of design and functionality from previous scam websites.”
CyberSpace Kenya also noticed that the link contains a Trojan – a virus that disguises itself as a harmless application but is harming the system in the background – but are however yet to establish its purpose in this particular case.
“It can install ransomware that would encrypt all your files or a backdoor that would allow a hacker to control your computer remotely,” they said.
The site in question has all the characteristics of a phishing scam. To protect yourself from this, do not click on links from unfamiliar sites or take an extra step and install anti-phishing software that warns users or automatically blocks such sites. Referring to WhatsApp safety measures is also highly recommended.
There has been no word on the said funds’ transfer from official government communication channels or reports by any reliable local media outlets.
The site offering funds transfer to all citizens aged 20 years and above is not from the Kenyan government, but a hoax to scam unsuspecting Kenyans.
This story was produced by Piga Firimbi in partnership with Code for Africa’s iLAB data journalism programme, with support from Deutsche Welle Akademie.