Scam Pandemic

Nov 20 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew

It is amazing how people come with various tactics to deceive others. Every once in a while, we hear about a scam, some more common than others. Scamming takes wit, confidence and the ability to confuse and convince. However, people make it easy these days because we are often absent-minded, especially when we are scrolling on our phones. It has made us easy prey for scammers.

The famous one a lot of my friends have experienced is the spit scam. The pickpockets spit on someone’s pants then take their phones while pretending to wipe the spit off their clothes. It is usually two guys sitting in a car. The one on the passenger seat will spit intentionally on a person, then he pretends to be shocked and have the car pulled over and parked to the side. He will insist on wiping it with a piece of cloth or paper tissue while the driver distracts the victim by apologising profusely. The guy wiping off the spit will pickpocket a phone in the process.

Many of these pickpockets rent a car just for this purpose.

Does the cost of used phones cover both car rental and the probability of being caught? How many phones would they steal a day?

They must be getting profit from it; otherwise, this scam would not have gone for as long as it has. The pickpockets are obviously witty because they have figured out a way to create an illusion to steal without being caught. It is a shame to see talent wasted in this way while it could have been used on something productive.

A different type of scam recently was attempted against me. I received a call from an unknown number with a man on the other side telling me he had accidentally sent me a monthly gift voice package. Indeed I had received a text message just before, but I did not pay attention to the number. I figured the package was sent by mistake. The guy called me twice asking me to return the money or send him back the package. I said I will, but to wait for the moment.

When I had gathered my attention, I saw the text. It was a monthly voice package of 375 minutes at 95 Br. But when I checked my credit on my phone, I did not have that much. Confused, I rechecked the text and noticed that it was not actually sent from Ethio telecom but the guy’s number. He merely copied a similar message from the phone operator and sent it to me to make me think that I had received a gift package. Many people do not notice the number, just the text itself. The guy must have had easy pickings.

I nearly fell for this same trick another time. I had no doubt but called a friend and asked to confirm. It was true. This was an attempted scam. I called the scammer and told him that he had got the nerves to try such a scam on me and that I was going to report him to Ethio telecom. But he hung up before I got to finish my sentence. I am glad I confronted him. At least now he knows not everyone falls for this kind of thing. Perhaps he will stop or think up another way of swindling people.

We need to be vigilant and pay attention to such scams. They will only be getting worse. While more financialisation and digitalisation of the economy make transactions smooth and flexible, it also widens the scope for us to get scammed by those savvy, but unethical, enough.

PUBLISHED ON Nov 20,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1125]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (

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