By Kalungi Kabuye
There is a story that has been making the rounds, about a pyramid-like kind of scheme run by a company called TelexFree.
Basically what it offered was a chance to make lots of money while not doing much, except putting its advert on social media. Except of course you had to put in some money first.
It was a cheap, almost effortless way of making money, or so it seemed. But by the time it was closed in several countries around the world, including Uganda, lots of people had lost their money.
Why would hundreds of people send their hard-earned money to a complete stranger they really know nothing about? It was the lure of cheap pickings, or the exciting prospect of making ‘free money’ without really working for it. Of course it turned it was not free after all, and they are all crying foul.
There is an old trick conmen in Kampala like pulling: they stop you and show you a glass container with some silvery substance in it. On a label is written a figure from anything from US$10,000 to US$20 million.
The con guy tells you some mzungu had an accident, somebody picked the glass container, and he wants to take it to a radio station to announce its recovery so the mzungu can get their money back.
When they told me that I directed them to the nearest radio station, but they didn’t seem to be very impressed. But a close friend of mine fell for it, and ended up paying sh200,000 as compensation money to the ‘finders’.
He later found he couldn’t sell it anywhere, and yes, he was conned. And was furious at Kampala thieves, and was even more furious when I told him he wanted to cheat them too, paying sh200,000 for what was supposedly worth US$10,000. Only they were smarter.
A relative used to run a petrol station, with another relative as a manager. Some guys convinced the manager they could buy gold cheaply somewhere and had a ready buyer at a higher price, but they needed money to buy the gld.
So the manager gave them the stations earnings, hoping to make a quick profit before the books were balanced. Of course he did not see the gold, or those guys again. And he lost his job, too.
It is a safe bet that every day in Uganda, especially Kampala, hundreds of people are being conned out of their money. The same old trick is being used again and again and still people fall for it, and lose money.
What makes an adult person, who is finding it hard to make ends meet, give up their precious money to a stranger? It is because, at the bottom line, they are also trying to cheat. They think they can beat the system, or con someone else of what would have been an honest profit.
Con artists pick their targets carefully, and they probably can tell a person who wants to make a quick deal. But that deal will not happen without somebody else being cheated. So basically the con artists and the conned are both cheats, in actual fact.
It would be very difficult to get a person who is not looking to get an unfair advantage to participate in such a scheme. That person is what is referred to as an honest person, and such people are very difficult to con.
So if you have ever taken part in a scheme such as the TelexFree; or been conned in a get rich deal – you, sir or madam, are not an honest person, really.