When the late musician, Paapa Yankson, sang his song titled ‘Okukuseku’, we all loved and danced to it. I bet many of you did not pay much attention to the lyrics and the importance of our lives.
Well, I did recently and found it very truthful. In sum, the late musician advised us to fear our fellow humans rather than ghosts- ‘Suro nipa na gyae saman.’ His position was based on the age-old phenomenon of humans running away from what we consider ghosts- a dead person which is believed to appear or manifest to the living.
The narrative is that even persons who were on very good terms with a deceased have the tendency to run off at the sight of his or her ghost. It is upon sober reflection that the runaway person may stop to ascertain the ‘purpose of visit’ by the ghost.
Rather, Paapa Yankson wants us to adopt this fearful disposition towards our fellow humans. He explained that humans will never spare an opportunity to harm each other, whereas the ghost’s preoccupation while resting in the cemetery, is to think of what to do in order to be welcomed with open arms through the gates of heaven.
The renowned highlife musician noted that the human being would be competing with you on who gets the best of worldly things, showing off and engaging in foolishness. He went on to say, that when a human being catches your eye, he smiles at you, but immediately you leave the scene, he will berate you mercilessly. Paapa aptly described such human beings as ‘killer cum saviour’- “Okumfodumfo”.
The most interesting part of the song, for me, is when he stated thus, “Keep your door ajar, leave your money unguarded and see who will steal it? Is it a ghost or a human? That is when you will realise that it is the human being who will steal it, then you will acknowledge that humans are bad. They are cruel.“
A scammer’s hi
Over the years, I have come to accept the admonition by motivational speakers and pastors alike, to be nice with people. I have imbibed the lesson of wishing good morning to people I meet and going the step further to ask them that thoughtful question- How are you?
As such, I value the expression hi, a lot. Whenever I encounter someone who, under a particular circumstance, is supposed to have said hi to me but chose not to, I resent them.
That’s because I understand the word to mean a friendly greeting to attract attention. Hence, if you deny me a hi, then I must as well deny you, my friendship.
Lately, I have observed a worrying manifestation of the wickedness of some humans as espoused by Paapa Yankson in the use of the word hi, by scammers on WhatsApp. Clearly, they know the friendly and attention-grabbing nature of this greeting and are making use of it.
The trend is that a supposedly beautiful young lady will type hi, and leave it. If you ignore them, they return with a hello. They persist until you respond. Initially, I ignored them. However, on three occasions, I decided to check what they have in store for me. The following dialogue ensued:
S/he: How are you doing today please?
Me: Not well.
S/he: Awww ok. My name is Maame Esi from Enyan Denkyira. Anyway, I updated my WhatsApp and I find (sic) your number. Please may I know your name and where you live?
Me: No, please.
S/he: Oh why?
Me: Because I think you are fake.
S/he: What do you mean?
S/he: You’re not serious. (I think s/he realised that’ s/he lowered his/her guard). Dear, I had your number on my phone so I thought we’ve met before or something else. What’s 419?
End of conversation.
On another day, a supposedly different young beautiful lady with a dissimilar phone number:
S/he: Hi dear
Me: (No response)
S/he: Hello good evening, dear how are you doing today? I hope by the grace of God everything is going on well.
Me: (No response)
S/he: Hello, please I am Paulina Annan from Twifo Praso in the Central Region, please I find (sic- by their mistakes, ye shall know them) this number on my WhatsApp backup, but I don’t really remember the person. Please whom am chatting with (sic)?
Me: I don’t know you.
End of conversation.
Yet another day.
Me: (No response)
S/he: Well, my name is Madam Patience Kwakugah from Accra Madina. But currently working under National Lottery Authority (NLA) at Osu and I got your contact through a link that we have with WhatsApp media with a search update…Can I know your name and where are you located, please
Me: No, please.
S/he: Oh why?
Me: Because I am a pastor.
End of conversation.
There was this other one who upon my saying to him/her that I was not fine, asked why?
Then I said I wanted KFC chicken with fries. His/her response was that he/she lives outside Accra. That was the end of our little chatter.
Other modus operandi of scammers
Apparently, the phenomenon of scamming has become so rife that with the least mistake on one’s part, you get swindled. And they are not just on WhatsApp. They also ply their evil trade through SMS, messenger, and voice calls.
The other day, I walked into a colleague’s office and found him on the phone, so I decided to excuse him. He beckoned me to come and scribbled on a sheet that the person on the line was a scammer, but he had indulged him for over 30 minutes to waste his phone credit, so I could go ahead and discuss my issue. My colleague then told the scammer to continue talking but muted the call. After a few hellos without a response, the fraudster went off the line. Serves him right!
Not too long ago, I had a call from someone who told me that he had been tasked to change the settings of a Whatsapp group in which I am, so he had sent me a link that I should click. As ignorant as I was, I did and suddenly realized my WhatsApp was malfunctioning. Subsequently, I got calls from persons in groups to which I belong who enquired whether my phone had been hacked. I responded that that must be the case.
I was advised to activate the two-step authentication function on WhatsApp. Eventually, I got sorted. It was later that I realised that the fraudster had sent messages on those platforms, using my number. The message was that I had benefitted from a money-doubling scheme so members could also subscribe to it. The trickster had the audacity to use my photo as his DP. Thankfully, the members of the group saw through his tricks- None fell for it.
With this experience and the numerous public education campaigns by the telecommunications companies in mind, I recently had a call from a male voice who said he had mistakenly sent GHC500.00 to my Momo account, so I should refund it to him. Without blinking an eye, I shouted “Get off my phone!!!” He had the boldness to ask me why? Whereupon I gave him the same response as to Maame Esi above. He quickly dropped the line.
Last week, I received an SMS from a sender named NEW.RECRUIT. Characteristically, the message started with that sycophantic hi- “Hi, dear, we are hiring a team. You can work at home. Daily income, 300-3000 cedi. To accept this work please click…”
Curious, I obliged and got an interface that showed that it is from Melcom. I trusted it momentarily until I saw a request for bank account details. Then that little voice said,
“Crosscheck from Melcom.” Luckily, I have the contact of someone who works there, so I did. As it turned out, it was a scam.
Hajia4Reall and the alleged romance scam
The first time I heard the name Hajia4Reall, I asked my millennial children who she is and they told me about her. Last week, I read the news that she has been extradited to the United States from the United Kingdom for her alleged involvement in a $2 million romance scam, locally called ‘sakawa’, which targets older, single Americans.
I was so shocked and wondered what ‘romance scam’ means. “Romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim,” my Google search revealed. I followed it up by googling the name Hajia4Reall and found this epitome of an angel- a beautiful damsel by all criteria.
I also read that Hajia4Reall, alias Mona Faiz Montrage, aka Mona 4Reall, is a socialite who rose to fame as an influencer through her Instagram profile, which at one point had approximately 3.4 million followers. Then I figured out why those who wanted to scam me had used photos of ‘posy,’ fair-coloured beautiful girls. They don’t even know that fair ladies are not my preference.
Well, seeing as the story says ‘for alleged involvement…” I hope it turns out to be an allegation. If not, what it means is that we are in real danger. The fraudsters do not only want money in our Momo and bank accounts, they want to toy with our emotions as well. And the security agencies are unable to do anything about it, except to tell us to beware?
Well, in the spirit of beware, here are a few tips worth considering; if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, take your time in making decisions that involve parting with money, get independent financial advice before making investments online, and do business only with companies that you recognise or know of by recommendation by someone you trust – don’t judge a company merely on how ‘professional’ their website looks.
What surprises me more is how they had access to my phone number. Telecom companies need to seal any loophole that facilitates unauthorized access to our phone numbers. It is really dangerous.
It’s time to go
Before this incessant attention on me by these scammers, I held the view that people who fell prey to the machinations of fraudsters were greedy. Now, I know that because of the cunning way they operate, one can easily fall for their pranks involuntarily.
But what accounts for the seeming increase in this phenomenon? For me, the lowest hanging fruit as regards the causative factors is, unemployment that has resulted from the current state of the economy. Or is it just human nature as posited by Paapa Yankson? While some of us are seeking to brighten our corners no matter the circumstances, these social misfits, think the only way out is to reap where they have not sown.
In the process, they make the import of Uncle Paapa Yankson’s song so relevant. To mimic Paapa, which ghost will say hi to you on social media with the intention of duping, defrauding, or romantically scamming you? It is a human being who will do that. So, which must you fear? Ghosts or humans?
Now, I don’t even know which hi to trust. So henceforth, if I see that flattering hi on any of my social media platforms, I will block you immediately. To avoid this treatment as my friend or relative, when you want to attract my attention or check up on me with a phone number I have not saved, please use a salutation such as Bro or Ericus. Then I will respond, what’s up buddy?
Doviđenja- That’s goodbye in Croatian language.
Let God Lead! Follow Him directly, not through any human.
The writer is the author of two books whose contents share knowledge on how anyone desirous of writing like him can do so.
By Eric Mensah-Ayettey
Eric can be reached via email [email protected]