At 8.05 am on Monday, February 20 2017, some dudes perched in a corner office in downtown Nairobi, eyes fixed on their laptops, have just made a cool KSh 1 million. Or 10 million or 250k. I really can’t tell how much, but I know they’re making money.
Here’s how it happened.
“Hey, sent the text?” Asks 20012 (you’ll know him soon).
My phone beeps a text alert. The message reads:
‘But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me.’
Just what the hell is that? I quickly check my airtime balance to confirm my suspicions. Yes. A clean 10 bob gone, again. Now I know how my credit has been disappearing.
KSh 10 is not such an elephant deal. But here’s why it matters: tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of Kenyans are paying taxes they’re not even aware of straight into the pockets of a few smart individuals.
Two days earlier, I had texted ‘STOP’ to end this stream of unsolicited Bible verses coming into my phone and grabbing the cash and taking off without asking.
I had to say ‘STOP’ because on scrolling up, I realized I had received 7 unsolicited messages in the space of about 10 days. That’s 70 bob robbed without violence, and I stilled hadn’t complained.
But the message was never delivered. The number of the sender is 20012. Somehow, they’ve made it in a way that you cannot simply unsubscribe with a simple ‘STOP.’
You have to call customer care to get your number off their list. But like many of their victims, I’m still procrastinating. The
Who told these guys I need random bible verses sent to my phone? I wouldn’t want them even if they were free. I have access to the bible on the internet and I can access a physical bible. Besides, what’s a random verse with absolutely no context, supposed to accomplish?
Consider this for instance, sent on Feb 18:
‘like the Son of Man who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life to redeem many people- Mt 20:28’
Oh, so you would remember to capitalize Son of Man, but begin the sentence with a small ‘l’? But anyway, that verse looks incomplete in itself. Without context, anyone who doesn’t know what it’s talking about will open their mouth and form a ring, astonished.
And another, this time without the book and chapter:
‘Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.’
How easy it must to make money! Just rehash to people what Jesus said and you’ll be smiling all the way to your bank branch.
This stuff got me wondering just how many Kenyans are victims of this and other con schemes. For one, they know Kenyans are a religious people, more religious than the Jews themselves. They know the safest way to make money without having too many questions asked is to send bible verses. ANY verse will do, as long as it’s been picked from the scriptures.
Some day that guy who sits at the computer and types the verses will get lazy and say, “today I’m sending John 11:35”.
It’s such a short verse, it’ll save you the trouble of reading a long message.
Consider the math though. If these guys send these messages to, say, 50,000 ‘subscribers,’ they earn a cool 50,000×5=250,000 per text, assuming the commission they receive from Saf is KSh 5 out of the KSh 10 charged.
But where do they get the numbers? Maybe there’s some inside guy at the mobile operator, I don’t know.
“Hey, Kim, so unaeza-organize number ngapi ivi?” Asks the 20012 mastermind.
“50k, ” Kim from LeSaf replies.
“Hizo ni kiasi sana. Make it 100k na utakula poa,” 20012 bargains.
But Kim seems unmoved. “Look, guys, we don’t want to raise suspicion. I’m doing you a favour by providing these numbers.”
“No problem. Credit history iko sawa?”
“Zote ziko sawa. I checked.” Kim confirms.
I don’t know, maybe I’m delusional about this whole thing.
And that, ladies and gents, is my lesson on how to make money in this country.
P.S. Update: another one came in as I continue to procrastinate:
‘Do not use dishonest standaards when measuring length, weight or volume. Leviticus 19:35’